Washington State Launches Attendance Awareness Initiative

With more than 16 percent of Washington students chronically absent, OSPI partners with the Seattle Sounders and DSHS to address the challenge head-on.

Whether your child is excused or not, absences add up. As few as two absences a month can affect student performance.

Attendance Poster available here: http://k12.wa.us/Attendance/Communication.aspx

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) joined a nationwide effort to support Attendance Awareness Month in September. As part of that, OSPI pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.

“We all know that attendance is a vital piece of academic success — students can’t learn if they aren’t in school. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Chronic absenteeism is described as missing 10 percent of the school year — or about 18 days — for any reason. Nationally, five million to 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year. Washington is currently ranked second worst in the nation, based on the U.S. Office of Civil Rights federal data collection.

Washington’s state data collection showed the chronic absenteeism rate to be more than 16 percent in the 2015–16 school year. In other words, one in every six students (about 194,000 in total) were chronically absent.

Starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower third grade reading scores. By middle school, it’s a warning sign that students are more likely to fail key classes and drop out of high school.

“As a state, we know this means too many students are missing too much school, and this significantly risks their chances of success,” Superintendent Reykdal said.

Students can be absent for a wide range of reasons that include, but are not limited to:

· lack of transportation,

· bullying,

· lack of engagement in coursework, and

· mental or emotional conditions.

When a student is absent, it may be a signal to schools that a student needs additional support to overcome barriers.

“We need the help of communities, parents, and educators to address the barriers some of our students encounter just going to school. We all have a role to play in student attendance,” Superintendent Reykdal said, “Partnerships are critical in this effort.”

For schools, first steps towards increasing attendance include creating a warm and welcoming school environment and engaging families in a supportive manner.

“Schools are working to create safe and inviting learning environments,” said Dixie Grunenfelder, Director of K-12 System Supports at OSPI. “Students need to feel welcome at school, and that their education is relevant to meeting their goals beyond high school.”

For many students and families, simply building awareness can have a big impact. Things like knowing the importance of attendance, how absences are likely to impact their learning and future success, and working to reduce the number of absences, are important first steps. Schools and communities across the state are launching attendance awareness efforts as the school year kicks off.

Supt. Reykdal and Seattle Sounder, Henry Wingo promote good attendance in this Public Service Announcement.

OSPI created a number of resources to support districts and communities in this effort. Superintendent Reykdal and Gov. Jay Inslee both support the attendance awareness initiative. Working through a partnership with the Department of Social and Health Services and the Sounders RAVE foundation, they produced public service announcements and promotional materials featuring Henry Wingo, a Seattle Sounder and Shoreline High School alumnus.

Rack card to promote good attendance: http://k12.wa.us/Attendance/Communication.aspx

These attendance-related materials have been translated into multiple languages and are being shared with schools and social services agencies statewide.

OSPI is also working to address chronic absenteeism through other avenues. The agency recently filed a state law rule change revising the definition of absence. This change will result in more accurate and consistent data collection across the state, thus allowing the state and school districts to better address the challenge of chronic absenteeism.

Seattle Sounder, Henry Wingo and Governor J. Inslee promote good attendance.

The Washington State Legislature has also taken steps to address chronic absenteeism by providing additional state funding for the 2017–19 biennium. These funds will be used to facilitate a statewide accountability system, increase school districts’ access to attendance data, and support districts in identifying successful strategies to address chronic student absenteeism.

To learn more about how Washington promotes positive attendance and Attendance Awareness Month, or to find out how you can support your community in this effort, visit the OSPI website: k12.wa.us/Attendance.

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