September is “Attendance Awareness Month” and Maryland State Department of Education has announced a plan to combat chronic absenteeism in public schools here.
MDSE is partnering with Attendance Works, a national nonprofit, to work with local school systems and leaders to get students in school, keep them there and move them along the track to college and career.
“Students can’t succeed if they aren’t in class. With the support of our local systems and the tools available through Attendance Works, we can strengthen student success and boost student graduation rates,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery. “Maryland attendance rates have improved, and we have more work to do.”
Chronic absenteeism in Maryland means missing more than 20 days during the school year for any reason. Research shows that being chronically absent in the early grades affects whether a low-income child learns to read. By middle school, attendance is a key indicator of a student’s potential to drop out. A study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium shows that the majority of dropouts enter the ninth grade with a pattern of chronic absence that dates back several years. In Maryland last year, more than 80,000 students had 20 or more absences both excused and unexcused. Research also indicates that kindergartners have similar rates of absenteeism as ninth graders.
The good news is that educators and community leaders, working together can, make a difference, according to a press release from MSDE. In partnership with Attendance Works, MSDE is making available a wealth of tools and strategies that can be used to fight chronic absenteeism.
Tools and strategies
For district leaders, it is important to provide data and offer support, including the development of a plan to prioritize district needs. School leaders must make attendance a priority and provide resources to implement effective attendance plans. Community leaders and partners can support district and school efforts by linking community resources—including afterschool, health, mentoring, family support and food and nutrition programs—to meet student needs.
September has been selected as Attendance Awareness Month because attendance patterns in September offer a strong indicator of expected trends for the rest of the school year. Using the month of September for the campaign will raise awareness about chronic absenteeism, and the State will launch the Maryland Attendance Matters Campaign, with tools, resources and ongoing support to districts, schools and communities.
“We know that when students are in school and engaged in the learning process, they are much more likely to graduate college and career-ready,” Lowery said. “To reach that goal, we need the commitment of the entire community.”
Check the Attendance Works website a variety for tools that can be used to help strengthen attendance.