SEPEMBER 2018 EDITION
Dear Team PUSD,
I overheard a conversation the other day with a parent who said they were planning on pulling their child from school a couple days early ahead of Thanksgiving break to “beat the crowds” at Disneyland. Another parent chimed in, “The days leading up to break are useless anyway. They don’t do or learn anything.”
September happens to be “Attendance Awareness Month.” So I wanted to take this opportunity to help our families and community understand why school attendance matters so much for the success of our students and our schools.
In my message last month, I talked about how Poway Unified is focusing on creating culture and conditions to support world class learners. I encouraged Team PUSD to start by raising their expectations for young people in order to free students to become the best versions of themselves, instead of limiting our students’ potential.
Another way we can help our students is by making sure that they stay on the right track all year long by coming to school each and every day. Good attendance is essential to student achievement and well-being, and every day a student is absent is a lost opportunity for learning. According to the national initiative “Attendance Works,” across the country, more than 8 million students are missing so many days of school that they are academically behind or at risk. Chronic absence is defined as “missing 10 percent or more of school days due to absence for any reason—excused, unexcused absences and suspensions.” 10 percent equals just two days a month. “Attendance Works” points to research showing that chronic absences can translate into third-graders being unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects, and ninth-graders dropping out of high school.
Attendance is also directly tied to the funding we receive from the State, based on “Average Daily Attendance” or ADA. PUSD already operates at a disadvantage when it comes to the amount of funding we receive from the State, compared to other school districts. So anything we can do to increase our ADA rate makes a difference. Bottom line: more students in their seats every day means more resources for our schools to directly benefit our students. Recently PUSD convened a District Budget Advisory committee composed of parents, staff, student, and community stakeholders to explore ways to deal with budget challenges. Their number one recommendation was to improve attendance rates. In the 2017-18 school year, PUSD had an average ADA of 96.5%, with a total of 205,944 total absences, K-12. That equates to nearly $9.5 million dollars in lost funding for our schools. Just a 0.5% increase to 97% ADA would mean an extra $1.5 million dollars every year.
Parents and guardians play a critical role in helping children get to school on time every day.
As the school year goes into full swing, establish good habits of routine bedtimes, regular checkups to stay healthy, and avoid scheduling vacations while school is in session. Have a backup plan for when your child’s ride to school falls through. And of course, if your child is genuinely ill, please keep them home to recover and avoid getting others sick. Many families do not realize that absenteeism can be a problem as early as kindergarten and preschool and building the habit of attendance in the early grades can influence children’s chances of success later on.
Schools can also help improve attendance by building a culture where good attendance is expected and celebrated. Attendance improves when a school and its staff offer a welcoming environment for students and work to engage and build relationships with their families. Many of our campuses emphasize certain character traits, including responsibility. When students make attendance a matter of personal responsibility, they are more motivated to attend school every day. Our students learn best when they feel safe, connected, and respected. And when they know that someone notices, in a caring manner, when they missed school, they will be more likely to make that extra effort.
We only get 180 days with our students, and we want to maximize them. When children miss school, they miss out on learning. Thank you for partnering with us in our students’ success.
This message was originally published in the Pomerado News as part of Dr. Phelps' monthly "Back to School" column.