Every School Day Counts

Families all across Georgia wake up each morning and make a decision: whether or not their children will make it to school that day.

School attendance is essential to academic success, but too often students, parents, and schools don’t realize how quickly absences—excused or unexcused—can add up to academic trouble. Every school day counts, and everyone can make a difference.

Attendance Works, a National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading partner, has declared September Attendance Awareness Month. This nationwide effort recognizes the connection between school attendance and academic achievement.

“One of the most essential things a student can do to achieve academic success, graduate from high school, and have career options is also one of the most basic: going to school every day,” says Baldwin County Superintendent Dr. Noris Price. “In fact, research shows that attendance is an important factor in student achievement. When you miss school, you miss out.”

Kids who miss too many days in pre-K and kindergarten are less likely to be reading in the third grade, making it much harder to learn in the years that follow. Preschool is the ideal time to introduce children and families to the importance of consistent on-time attendance and to encourage strong attendance habits.

“School attendance is extremely vital even in preschool,” Georgia Head Start Director Janice Haker says. “Research has indicated that children experience school success and are less likely to drop out because they have set a pattern and can take advantage of all services provided.”

For eighth graders in Georgia who miss less than six days of school, the graduation rate is 80 percent or higher—while those who miss 15 or more days have a substantially lower graduation rate of 38 percent.

Students in Georgia lost more than 13 million days of instruction last year, and Dr. Garry McGiboney, deputy superintendent of external affairs in the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), says it’s time to do something about that.

“This stunning figure is amplified when we look at the research, which tells us that missing more than six days of school has a negative impact on a child’s ability to learn,” says McGiboney. “We need to focus on why children are missing school, and ensure that physical health services, mental health services, a positive learning climate, language development, and other essential services are in place.”

Chronic absence, which is defined in Georgia as missing 15 days in one school year, is a problem we can fix when schools and communities work with students and families, starting in the early grades, to identify barriers to getting to school, help students overcome these barriers, and cultivate a culture of attendance that encourages showing up every day even when it isn’t easy.

Attendance Appreciation
During Attendance Awareness Month, the GaDOE will recognize the top three elementary, middle, and high schools with a climate star rating of 4 or 5 that have had the largest percentage decline in the proportion of students missing more than 15 days over the past two school years.

The GaDOE will also celebrate the top elementary, middle, and high schools that have made the greatest progress in increasing student attendance with a personal visit from State Superintendent Richard Woods later on this fall.

Count Us In
Attendance Works provides resources designed to help everyone who cares about children to take steps to ensure that all students are attending school regularly during Attendance Awareness Month—and throughout the coming school year.

The Count Us In! Toolkit is designed to help you plan your involvement and enlist stakeholders who can help get the message out. The toolkit includes:

  • research on the importance of student attendance and the negative impact of chronic absenteeism;
  • key messages to spread the word about student attendance and tips on how schools can effectively convey these messages to families;
  • examples of attendance incentives and contests to get students excited about coming to school every day;
  • suggestions for roles that educators and community leaders can play in promoting student attendance;
  • guidance on how to crunch the data to determine which students and population groups are missing too many days of school and identifying and addressing the barriers to regular attendance; and
  • downloadable materials such as social media graphics, badges, infographics, banners, and posters in English and Spanish for elementary, middle, and high school audiences.

Schools, schools districts, and communities can post information about the steps they are taking to promote student attendance on Attendance Works’ interactive map. This digital platform is the perfect way to share the many innovative and exciting efforts underway across our state.

Attendance Works also offers an Early and Often Toolkit that’s designed to provide you with ideas and materials to help children and families develop strong attendance routines from the outset of schooling. It is a problem-solving resource to be used “early and often” as you nurture a positive culture of attendance.

Help us spread the word about Attendance Awareness Month—and share these great resources—using the #schooleveryday hashtag.