The Utah State Office of Education has declared the month of September as “Attendance Awareness Month”. I will site the following references and statistics from USOE’s awareness campaign in an attempt to stress the importance of attending school. As many as 7.5 million U.S. students are chronically absent each year, which means they miss 10% of school or approximately one month of classroom instruction. Whether the absences are school excused, parent excused, unexcused, or for discipline reasons, all absences can add up to academic trouble. One in 10 kindergarten and 1st graders are chronically absent according to national research. As early as pre-k and kindergarten, chronic absence is associated with children being unable to read well by the end of 3rd grade according to studies. The studies also concluded chronic absences in 1st grade is a predictor of poor academic performance and higher suspension rates in the 6th grade. Even students who miss just 10 days a year are less likely to graduate and less likely to enroll in college according to a Johns Hopkins University study. In the State of Utah, students who are chronically absent in any year between 8th and 12th grade are 7.4 times more likely to drop out of high school. Students believe they can skip school with no impact to their grades; as one study found 80% of students who skip school once a week believe it is unlikely they will fall behind in class. Many families do not realize that attendance, starting as early as preschool, matters. Chronic absences is a solvable problem when schools and communities work together to build a habit of attendance and reduce barriers to getting to school. Positive support from parents, student academic success, and mentoring programs in schools has proved successful to help curve student absences. One study showed when students cease to be chronically absent, their grade point averages improved and were more likely to remain in school three years later. I hope we can all work together to help our students become successful by regular attendance at school.
–Superintendent Ben Dalton