‘Tis the season for reconnecting with faraway friends and family, and the timing of your travel plans can influence the cost of plane tickets and hotel stays. But keep in mind the costs to your children’s education when they miss too much school.
Canyons District’s schools will be open, our teachers will be teaching, and our students will be learning right up until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the start of the winter break on Thursday Dec. 20—and we’ll waste no time starting up again after the New Year.
“When it comes to keeping kids on track academically, every day of instruction counts,” says Canyons District Responsive Services Administrator Colleen Smith who is working with schools to spread awareness of the hazards of absenteeism. “We don’t begrudge students the learning opportunity of traveling to new places. But absences tend to soar around the holidays, and families often don’t realize how quickly they can add up.”
Missing just a few days here and there can contribute to elementary students falling behind in reading, writing and math, a growing body of research shows. For example, four out of five students who miss two days per month, or 10 percent, of kindergarten and first grade are unable to read on-level by the third grade. By the sixth-grade, excessive absenteeism is a warning sign of a student not graduating from high school.
Put simply, too many absences—even excused absences—at any age can harm a student’s chances for academic success, Smith says. This year, Canyons District is encouraging students to “Be Great, Miss Less than Eight,” and schools will be finding creative ways to encourage good attendance habits, and reward students for coming to school every day, on time and ready to learn.
Think your child’s school has avoided the naughty list? Think again. Last year, 7,111 students districtwide—21 percent—were chronically absent, or missed at least 10 percent of the school year. Zero in on individual schools, and you’ll find instances where as many as 32 percent of the students were chronically absent, says Instructional Specialist Jonathan Stewart, noting there are hotspots of absenteeism in every corner of the District.
Hitting the 10 percent mark is easier to do than it sounds, says Stewart. “That’s the equivalent of skipping just one day every other week.”
A bout with the flu, a midday doctor’s appointment, and extended family vacation can easily put a student over the threshold for the term, Stewart says. “We have had terms (quarters or semesters) where nearly half an entire school was chronically absent.”
And while such spikes may be an anomaly, large numbers of students missing class can affect the pace of instruction for the entire classroom, Stewart says. “It can really slow things down, creating extra work for the teacher and a missed opportunity to advance for the other students.”
What can parents do? Smith says it’s important to set firm expectations early in the school year, and early in a child’s educational career, and to be consistent in enforcing them.
“Sometimes life gets in the way. There will always be unforeseen illnesses and family emergencies—even rare special occasions—that pull kids from school,” Smith says. “But children, even teenagers, take cues from their parents, and it’s important to let them know that in school, work and life, showing up is important. It really comes down to establishing a daily routine, and reinforcing for your children how much you value an education.”
Attendance Tips for Parents
- Let your children know that you think showing up for school every day is important.
- Take an interest in your child’s school work and be involved in school activities.
- Post the school calendar somewhere prominently in the home.
- Establish a routine and healthy school-night habits, such as getting to bed early and reading before bed, instead of watching TV.
- Set the morning alarm early enough to provide students ample time to get dressed and eat breakfast.
- Support your children in getting to school on time: Give them a ride if they’re running late or they miss the bus, or arrange to carpool with other families.
- Try to schedule doctor and dental appointments after school.