Across South Dakota, a new school year is getting underway. Students and families are getting back into the school day routine, reestablishing study habits and juggling activities.
In order to succeed in school, students are often reminded to listen to their teachers, complete homework assignments on time and cooperate with their classmates. There is another simple practice we sometimes overlook that is absolutely critical: consistent school attendance. It seems obvious, but the importance of attendance cannot be overstated.
Some absences cannot be avoided, and that is understandable. Sometimes though, absences can add up without notice. The research indicates that all it takes is missing 10 percent of a school year to negatively impact student achievement. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider that it translates to just two or three days a month, it’s easy to see how families can sometimes overlook accumulating absences. It doesn’t matter if absences are excused or unexcused, consecutive or non-consecutive. Time out of the classroom is learning time lost.
Attendance is vital from the very beginning. Kindergarten and 1st grade students who are chronically absent are much less likely to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. Already by 6th grade, chronic absence is an indicator that students are at risk for dropping out of school. And by 9th grade, a student’s attendance record is an even better predictor of graduation rates than 8th grade test scores.
In September, we’ll be observing Attendance Awareness Month in South Dakota. I encourage you to join with me in this observation.
This school year make attendance a priority in your household. Think of it as your student’s first and most important job, and know that the habits they form now will likely stick with them when they enter the workplace. Help your kids understand the importance of showing up. As Woody Allen put it, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
For an audio recording of the Governor’s weekly column, visit news.sd.gov/media.aspx and click on “Audio” under “Governor Dennis Daugaard.”