Kanawha County Schools has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September and has pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.
Kanawha County Schools recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. That’s the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance, research shows.
Nationally, 5 million to 7.5 million miss nearly a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year. During the 2016-2017 school year, 14% of Kanawha County Schools students were chronically absent. Starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower 3rd grade reading scores. By middle school it’s a warning sign that students will 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.
“The mission of any school system is to educate its children and to prepare them to be college or career ready, but that is something that we cannot do if a student experiences chronic absenteeism,” KCS superintendent Dr. Ron Duerring said. “Raising awareness about absenteeism is a community effort and we’ll continue working with our network of parents, educators, and our local school communities to encourage students to achieve attendance milestones.”
In September, Kanawha County Schools will be raising awareness about attendance through PSAs on local radio stations, lessons given by counselors, talks at PTO meetings, letters sent home to parents, bulletin boards with information and tracking data for attendance/tardy/early outs, school and classroom tracking and celebrations for perfect attendance, recognition for weekly/monthly/9 weeks’ attendance, posters, and improving knowledge of chronic absenteeism.
Each school’s assistant attendance director, counselor and administrators are terrific resources for asking questions and helping to combat chronic absences.