By Anne E. Mead, M. Ed
Did you know that children who miss two or more school days per month are likely to fall behind in school and that chronic absenteeism affects 1 out of every 10 students? In the U.S., chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 18 or more school days per year; that’s 10 percent of the year. If this trend continues for the next 10 years, your child loses an entire year of instruction. A study completed in Rhode Island showed that kindergarteners who were chronically absent scored 20 percent lower in reading and math scores, were two times more likely to be grade retained and suspended by the end of 7th grade and had a higher drop-out rate.
Let’s debunk the myths about missing school. Myth: Children in kindergarten don’t learn. Truth: Kindergarten is a very important grade for all children. Many children are learning basic academic skills while other children are learning to be away from their parents for the first time and social skills. These skills form the basis for all other learning. Myth: It is okay to miss a day here and there. Truth: Most parents remember 2 or 3 days that their children have been absent, but when the number is over 10 days it is easy to forget the total number of days absent. Myth: My child’s teacher sends work home, so he can catch up. Truth: Missing seat time in the classroom, along with learning activities, doesn’t equate to completing missed work.
So what can a parent do to ensure that children attend school every day and are engaged with learning? First, establish a morning and nighttime routine for your family. Children that get enough rest and who have a good breakfast have better concentration skills and can engage in learning. Each Danbury school has a morning breakfast program that is available to your child. Send a letter to your child’s teacher requesting he be able to eat in the morning. Second, a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein is needed to stay healthy. Limit or eliminate sugary drinks and candy, as they can lower your child’s resistance to colds and other germs. Third, many children may complain about having a stomachache or not wanting to go to school. This may be a sign of something else going on at school. Good communication with your child’s teachers is important to be able to solve any issues.
Develop back-up plans. If your child misses the bus, use neighbors or public transportation to get her to school. If one of your children is sick, have a back-up plan for his care. Please don’t have an older sibling stay home. Avoid making doctor appointments during school hours or taking extended trips during the school year as well.
For more information about what you can do to help your child have perfect attendance, check out Attendance Works at www.attendanceworks.org/tools/for-parents/bringing-attendance-home-video in English or in Spanish at https://vimeo.com/130556839. Credit for data and information: www.attendanceworks.org.
Anne E. Mead, M. Ed. is the Administrator for Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.