Regular school attendance is as important in middle and high school as in preschool and elementary grades. As children grow up, though, more of the responsibility for being in class shifts to them personally instead of relying on mom and dad.
So parents, your role needs to shift too to keep emphasizing the importance of being in school, on time, every day. Attendance matters because it’s an important life skill for graduating on time, getting into college or keeping a job.
Missing school as few as two or three days a month adds up quickly to nearly 10 percent of the school year. Missing that much time makes it harder for tweens and teens to learn the material, pass the required tests and graduate with their classmates. Research shows that students who miss 10 or more days during a single school year are 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school and 25 percent less likely to enroll in college.
“Achieving our long-term outcomes for Palm Beach County families — such as ensuring high school readiness, increasing the high school graduation rate, and fostering post-graduate success — is only possible if students are in class,” says Palm Beach County School Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa. “Our data shows a direct link between attendance and student success.”
School District data shows that an eighth grade student in Palm Beach County with fewer than five absences has an 86.5 percent chance of graduating high school, while an eighth grade student who misses more than 21 days of school has a 53.3 percent chance of graduating high school.
What can parents say and do to help older children value school attendance? Here are nine smart tips from Attendance Works, a national initiative that promotes awareness of importance of school attendance.
- Make school a priority. Talk about regular and on-time attendance. Remind your child that school is his first and most important job. He’s learning about more than math and science; he’s learning that when he graduates and gets a job, he’ll understand the importance of showing up for work on time, every day.
- Talk about the future. Remind her that when she’s not in class, teachers and administrators notice because they care and they want her to be successful. In fact, a high school graduate makes, on average, $1 million more than a dropout over a lifetime.
- Praise hard work. School only gets harder when a student stay home too much. Sometimes it’s tempting to stay home because he may have too much work or doesn’t understand what’s going on in class. But missing a day only makes that worse.
- Discuss consequences. If your child thinks missing a day here or there won’t matter, think again. Skipping school may sound fun, but it can have serious consequences, including court time for parents and even the loss of that cherished driver’s license for teens.
- Ask for help. If your teen is having trouble getting to or staying in school — issues with transportation, personal health, bullies, taking care of parents or younger children, etc. — talk with someone, such as a guidance counselor. You can also reach out to these local organizations for help:
- School District’s Bullying Awareness and Intervention: 561-982-0922
- Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County: 561-801-4357
- Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative: 561-366-9400
- American Association of Caregiving Youth: 800-508-9618
- Stay involved. Showing up for teacher conferences and engaging with the school is still critical. Stay on top of academic progress and seek help from teachers or tutors if necessary. Make sure teachers know how to contact you. Check regularly on your child’s attendance to be sure absences are not piling up that you didn’t know about.
- Be in the know. Stay on top of your child’s social contacts. Peer pressure can lead to skipping school, while students without many friends can feel isolated.
- Encourage engagement. Encourage your student to participate in meaningful afterschool activities, including sports and clubs, or part-time work. This increases her connection to school, and her future.
- Stick to the routine. Daily self-discipline is important, so make sure your children get their homework done, assignments don’t turn into a last-minute panic, and they still get a good night’s sleep — without distraction from phones, games and other devices.
For a video on the importance of school attendance by Hedy Chang, founder and director of Attendance Works, click here. Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County sponsored a visit by Ms. Chang to meet with School District administrators and mayors of local cities.
And two final reminders for parents: First, good attendance is not just about complying with the rules. It’s really about providing children with more and better opportunities to learn. Second, an “excused” absence is still an absence. If your child isn’t in his seat, he’s not learning.
For more valuable parenting information, sign up at www.EveryParentPBC.org or download our new app, EveryParent, available for free in the Google Play store and Apple’s App store.