by Dillon Clark, Assistant Principal at MMS
This year at MMS we are doing multiple things to help support student attendance. In the past, we have seen concerning numbers of absences among students. Chronic Absenteeism is reached when a student has missed 10% of their school days. This means that 18 days have been missed by the end of the year. This number of days missed can have a serious impact on student learning. Attendance is one of the most important aspects of being successful in school. When students are not in attendance they are missing important instruction, class work, and time with their teachers and peers.
At our school, we have a truancy team that meets weekly and discusses the students we see struggling with attendance. The school recognizes that students have multiple reasons for not attending school and wants to support parents in overcoming any barriers that may be in place. As a team, we strategize ways we can assist families and students to ensure they can get to school. When students are either chronically absent or close to becoming chronically absent, a letter is sent home. Oftentimes this will prompt parents to reach out, which is what we hope for. This allows us to see what is causing the absences and troubleshoot plans to support the family and the student. We then develop a plan to help those students attend more frequently. Plans are individualized to the needs of the situation with the overall goal of increased attendance. After the first letter, there is a second letter that gets sent home. This letter, again, is to open communication between the family and the school. The more communication we have about what is causing the absences, the better we can support our families.
After the letters have been sent and families have reached out, we have other pieces set in place. One is our Resource Officer, Peter Tibbetts, who has picked students up for school, gone to homes to meet with families and support them, and has advocated for the needs of families in our schools. Our School Counselors, who are great resources as well, do house visits, make phone calls, and support the students’ needs while they are at school.
One of the misunderstandings some people have had regards excusing absences. It is great to excuse absences, however, these absences still count towards chronic absence as the student is still not at school. This is the reason why the school may reach out if absences approach a concerning number, even if many are excused.
As a way to recognize good attendance, we are sending home certificates of perfect attendance each month for students who achieve that goal. This certificate is something that can be framed at home, put on the refrigerator or simply celebrated by families to better foster how proud we are when students attend school every day.
MMS and the parents of our students have the same goal in mind. We all want what is best for our students and children. We hope that the attendance approaches we are taking are viewed as supportive and helpful! Thank you to all the parents of MMS students for your help in supporting your students’ education.