September is Attendance Awareness Month, and we’re thinking about how important school attendance is for a child’s achievement.
According to Attendance Works, a kindergarten student who misses just 2-3 days per month may struggle to master reading by 3rd grade. And in the long-term, chronic absence increases the likelihood of dropping out of school. This makes “here!” one of the most important words a child may say today.
LSA’s programs contribute to school attendance by nurturing child health, family stability, and parent empowerment.
We asked our directors to share how their programs combat chronic absenteeism. Here’s what they said:
Wendy Miron, Parenting and Child Development
We require regular attendance and punctuality to our early childhood socialization groups. As this is often the first entry point into the U.S. educational system for families in the program, it’s a good way for them to learn about the importance of attendance and the impact it has on a child’s education and work readiness skills. We also require punctuality and consistent attendance in the after school program. We reinforce the idea that missing school impacts children negatively: as they fall behind it becomes more difficult to be at grade level.
We know that unstable housing, domestic violence, and health issues are great contributors to chronic absences, so we also support families during crisis situations and provide them with appropriate referrals, ensuring they are able to meet their basic needs .
Nilsa Welsh, Preventive Services
If a child is experiencing chronic absenteeism, we usually assess the situation to determine the factors that are contributing to the absences. Once we identify the issues, we then address them. If the issues are clothing and/or school supplies, we provide that. Sometime it might be a bullying issue. In those cases, we advocate with school personnel. Depending on the age, we strongly suggest that the parent escort the child to school.
With teens, we work closely with the attendance teacher and homeroom teacher to complete weekly attendance sheets, and we have monthly school visits with both staff members. We explore alternative teaching/school settings. Overall, we tend to use a comprehensive approach to ensure that tardiness and absences are closely monitored.
Lucia Russett, Advocacy and Food Pantry
When kids show up with their parents at the food pantry on a school day, we’ll give them a gentle nudge–oh, is she sick? Our entire food pantry schedule is actually organized around the school day, to make it easier for parents dropping off/picking up their kids. Also, sometimes there’s a new arrival to a family from another country, an older child, and we’ll make sure that kid gets connected to a school.
In addition to the food pantry, we give other kinds of family support that can improve school attendance. For example, by helping families avoid eviction through the housing legal clinic, we help keep them out of the shelter system. When we help parents with problems like housing issues, benefits and food assistance, we can improve or prevent some of the family problems that lead to chronic absence.
Shevon Skinner, Nursing/Certified Home Health Agency
Nursing focuses on child health, an important factor in child development and school attendance. One of the things we do is prepare parents to manage their children’s acute conditions. We do this by reinforcing adherence to their children’s’ prescribed medication regimens and treatments. We also teach parents how to identify symptoms that their child’s condition is worsening and early signs of distress, and we provide clinical interventions to control acute and chronic issues. Finally, we provide education and supportive measures to maintain overall wellness.
Ray Lopez, Environmental Health Services
Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism. Our program aims to prevent emergency room visits and hospitalizations which cause children to miss so much school. We accomplish this by teaching caregivers how to manage asthma symptoms and avoid asthma triggers.