Parents are often bombarded with advice on how to help their children succeed in school, but one critical factor often gets overlooked: the most faithful foreteller of success at school is very basic—showing up. Research shows the likelihood of dropping out of school skyrockets to 75 percent when attendance drops below 80 percent. This is a disturbing statistic and one that has not been given enough attention. The John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities (JGC) at Stanford University conducted several studies on the attendance patterns of schools in the Bay Area. According to their findings, the group most likely to be chronically absent are Kindergarteners. Further, children who miss 10 days or more of their first year in school, whether in preschool or Kindergarten, are more likely to establish poor attendance habits and to struggle with reading mastery. Frequent absences early in a child’s education can have long-term consequences.
It seems self-evident that kids who are at school get the most get the most out of it. What’s surprising is the impact attendance has on all aspects of a well-rounded education. Students with good attendance are more responsible and have better work habits. They also learn valuable social skills and develop a broader worldview. The academic upside is also compelling. Better student attendance is a statistically significant predictor of better academic performance and it is true for all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
For parents, understanding the importance of attendance is the easy part. Actually getting kids to school every day, on time is the challenge. Here are a few tips to help achieve that goal.
- Lay out clothes, pack lunches and backpacks the night before.
- Have a backup plan for getting the kids to school if something comes up. Ask a family member, a neighbor or another parent if you can rely on them to take your kids to school, or pick them up, when you need an extra hand.
- Keep your kids healthy by ensuring they get enough sleep and teach them the importance of washing their hands frequently.
- Make sure your children have the required medical immunizations. There are immunizations needed for Kindergarten as well as transitional Kindergarten, and seventh-graders need a Tdap (pertussis booster) vaccine. If you have questions, check with your pediatrician.
- Keep track of your child’s absences. Many parents are surprised to see the number of days missed on their child’s report card. Sometimes we simply forget what took place weeks or even months ago. Writing absent days on a calendar may help you square up.
- Have a chat with your kids about the importance of being present at school. One missed day of school can mean two days of falling behind. Missing school makes it more difficult to stay on track with assignments and every day in school is another chance to learn something new.
- Attend back-to-school night. Most of the important events, dates and information you will need for the school year will be supplied at this meeting. Also, it demonstrates to your kids and their teachers that you are involved and engaged and that school is a priority.
- If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask the office staff, teachers, and/or administrators.
Beyond the most important reason to attend school—to ensure learning and academic success—showing up on time, every day is a life-long lesson that all of us can benefit from.
Contact Margaret Lavin at email@example.com.