Ridgefield School District has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September, pledging to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance, with a special focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.
The district recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success, but far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism is described as missing 10% of the school year, or about 18 days for any reason--excused or unexcused. Research shows that is the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance.
Nationally, 5 to 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year. In 2016, the chronic absenteeism percentage for the state of Washington was 16.7%. Ridgefield was slightly better at 16.4%.
Starting as early as kindergarten, chronic absenteeism predicts lower third grade reading scores. By middle school, it’s a warning sign that students may fail key classes and drop out of high school.
Chronic absence disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools. This is not just a matter of truancy. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves—barriers that city agencies and community partners can help families address.
“School is a child’s work,” said Ridgefield School District Superintendent Nathan McCann. “Coming to school on time and ready to learn each day is a habit that will lead to success in all areas of our kids’ lives.”
In September, schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others around the nation are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, map local attendance gaps and work with community partners to improve school attendance starting as soon as children enter school.
During Attendance Awareness Month, the district is asking community leaders, parents and students to help stem chronic absenteeism by building a habit and a culture of regular attendance.