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Attendance matters!

Posted by: Commissioner Deborah A. Gist on 11/19/2013

It stands to reason that regular attendance in school is the first and most fundamental element in the process of teaching and learning.  Students aren’t learning when they’re not in school, and chronic absenteeism can set students far behind their peers – often leading to poor performance, retention in grade, or dropping out of school. 

For older students, the most effective way of improving attendance is to make sure that students feel engaged, to  make learning interesting and exciting so that students want to come to school. The focus shouldn’t be: How do we enforce attendance requirements? The focus should be: How do we make sure our schools are places where our students want to be every day?

But what about our younger students, who are generally not making their own decisions about attending school? A recent RIDE study, which we have posted on the Rhode Island DataHUB, has found significant occurrences of chronic absenteeism in the early grades – even in kindergarten. What’s worse, we’ve found that students who are chronically absent during kindergarten often enter a downward spiral from which it is very difficult to recover. These children are often chronically absent – missing more than 10 percent of their school days – throughout the early grades. By grade 3, our statewide assessments show that chronically absent students have fallen far behind their peers who have been attending school regularly.

Ending chronic absenteeism in kindergarten may be a key strategy toward improving student achievement across the grade spectrum. 

Parents, teachers, and school leaders all share the responsibility for improving attendance among our youngest learners. With that in mind, I have been honored that the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has asked me to co-chair a new advisory panel on chronic absenteeism in early grades. Along with four other chief state school officers, we will bring together educators, health professionals, and parent advocates to develop a set of proposals to help schools and communities improve school attendance. I welcome your input on this important issue, and I will keep you informed on the progress we are making toward developing our recommendations. As this work moves forward, let’s all do everything we can to improve attendance and to keep our kids in school and learning!

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Dawn Casey-Rowe Dawn Casey-Rowe
This is interesting because though I agree with you totally in regards to younger students, I have done a lot to make my class (high school) something that's versatile enough to cover for absenteeism. There are a lot of reasons students are absent by high school--some things I'd judge as "good" and some not so good. At the high school level, I have kids working sometimes, kids going on extended vacations or overseas, or needing to help the family.

This is why I've designed my technology to allow students to keep up to speed and still get my guidance whenever necessary if they are in or out of my class. I can teach a student going to see a grandmother in Guatemala just as I would if he or she were with me in the same way as I, personally, work with people all around the globe. These are some of the 21st century victories we can celebrate, I think. Education anywhere, at any time.
Hi, Dawn.

Thanks so much checking in and sharing on my blog! I love the idea of using technology to keep students engaged. It's exciting to think about the ways that technology can advance learning.

"Education anywhere, at any time." I could not agree more!