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Being in school means succeeding in school. Students who miss school are more likely to struggle in reading and math, and are less likely to graduate from high school.
In 2014, the Oregonian highlighted the state’s astonishingly high chronic absentee rate: nearly one in five Oregon students missed at least 10 percent of the school year in 2012-13. They found that chronic absenteeism disproportionately affects rural schools as well as low-income students - they are almost 50 percent more likely to be chronically absent than other Oregon students.
In order to improve attendance, schools and communities must work together. One example of collaboration: Coffenberry Middle School partnered with the local Subway in Myrtle Creek to help incentive attendance for chronically absent students. The Subway to Success program provides a 6-inch sandwich on Fridays for students with chronic absenteeism who attend class for a full week. If the students continue their attendance streak, they earn chips, a drink and a cookie with each successive week. If they miss one day, the students start again at the beginning. Thanks to the program, one student who was on track to miss 21% of 7th grade now has a 20-week stretch of perfect attendance and improved grades.
"Attendance matters so students can be successful in all areas of their schooling, keeping up with academics or having a connection with the community of the school,” said Laurie Collins, counselor and GEAR UP coordinator.
The Subway to Success program is just one strategy being employed at Coffenberry. When the school notices students are repeatedly missing classes, Collins meets with the parents and students to determine the problem and to try to brainstorm solutions. Sometimes it's as simple as providing an alarm clock to students whose parents leave for work before students are awake.
Klamath Union High School is also communicating the importance of school attendance with families throughout the year. During spring conferences, school staff will sit down with every parent and show them how and if their student is on track for graduation. In addition, the school administration sends thank you post cards to students whose attendance has improved. The district has also organized Graduation Walks, where school staff and volunteers go door-to-door, seeking out students who are chronically absent or who have dropped out and offering a helping hand.
For additional strategies and resources to promote school attendance and combat chronic absenteeism, see the toolkits from Attendance Works for teachers and principals. Make a plan to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September!