TODAY, it is more important than ever to have a good education, and one of the key aspects to obtaining it is having good attendance in school.
Research has shown there is a strong correlation between a strong attendance record and a higher grade point average. In fact, students who attend school on a regular basis not only have higher levels of academic achievement than students who are frequently absent, they have stronger bonds to the school and community, lower rates of delinquent and high-risk behavior, and increased participation in higher education.
Research has also shown that students who have high rates of absenteeism usually do not fare well in school primarily because they are not able to keep up with their school work. The U.S. Department of Education reports that for every missed day of school, it takes students two days to catch up since they must make up missed learning and catch up with new learning at the same time. Additionally, since school is not only about academic work, being absent means children miss out on the social side of school life which can affect their ability to make and keep friends, and work alongside people later in life. Below are some suggestions parents can use to encourage, promote, and ensure regular school attendance:
- Make attendance and academics a priority. Let children know that school attendance and homework come before time with friends, extracurricular activities or the computer. Also, help them understand the consequences of missing school in terms that will hit home for them (e.g., missing out on after-school sports and clubs or time with friends).
- Get organized. Create a space in your home for children to store backpacks and other supplies. Develop a routine where children have their homework done, classroom material together, have their clothes laid out, and their bags packed the night before. This will make mornings less hectic and help them arrive at school on time each day.
- Set reasonable bedtimes. On average, school-aged children need about nine hours of sleep to be healthy and alert. As they move into the teen years, children’s brains begin to signal them to stay up later – and to sleep in later the next day. Despite what nature is telling them, reinforce reasonable bedtimes for your children, and encourage them to get up and get ready on their own.
- Make medical and other appointments during non-school hours whenever possible. Schedule family vacations during school holidays or the summer recess so students aren’t missing important lessons and struggling to make up for lost time.
- Stay home only when really sick. Most children will have occasional sick days, but healthy children rarely need to miss more than a few days each year. Children need to know that unless they are truly sick, you expect them to go to school every day and do their best while there.
- Communicate with school staff. Let the school know in advance if your child is going to be absent or if you have concerns about your child’s attendance or school performance.
Making school attendance a priority helps children learn good work and study habits that will serve them well now and throughout their lives. Regular school attendance also teaches children the ethics of responsibility and dedication – qualities they will need as they tackle increasingly more demanding schoolwork in the upper grades and face personal difficulties and challenges. Furthermore, these character traits, along with strong academic and technical knowledge, are also what today’s employers say they value most in those they hire.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 23 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.