According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 7.5 million students miss 10 percent of school every year nationwide, that’s roughly 135 million days total! Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the role that school attendance plays in academic success. They have made it their mission to ensure that each school understands the impact that chronic absences play in the lives of students. In an effort to bring awareness and to improve attendance within our own district, Indianapolis Public Schools has joined this important initiative and we are already seeing positive results! As early as preschool, chronic absence can predict poor attendance and academic performance for a student in the future. A student that is chronically absent in high school is 7.4 times more likely to drop out. These numbers are alarming, but absences can be significantly reduced when families and schools work together to tackle the issues that keep students out of the classroom.
With leadership from Principal Susan Mahoney and district Graduation Coaches, the team at Eleanor Skillen School 34 has done an excellent job encouraging perfect attendance. Students that have achieved perfect attendance are given public kudos with the Wildcat Hall of Fame. They are also invited to participate in a quarterly kickball game for some friendly competition. Parents are getting involved too! Many of them have a strong connection with their school and have developed “First Friday” for parents to come to the school and volunteer their time for acts of kindness. The Eleanor Skillen team and many other schools throughout the district display positive attitudes toward improving their attendance rates through this awesome initiative.
When discussing the importance of attendance with Principal Shane O’Day of Shortridge International Baccalaureate High School he explained, “Attendance is a standard. We make clear expectations from day one, that it takes more than simply being present. Being physically in a space isn’t enough, you must be engaged.” He goes on to say, “School is like an orchestra. While everyone has his or her seat (grade level/classes) and everyone has an instrument (abilities/strengths) everyone has to begin at once. When we perform, we are a part of a greater community and you must be engaged. Could you imagine an orchestra that only shows up?”
The team at Shortridge IB High School has implemented these standards into their programming. Students practice engagement throughout the school year through coursework, extracurricular activities,the ‘Friday Connect’ speaker series, the sophomore capstone and much more.
Although Attendance Awareness Month has come and gone, Indianapolis Public Schools will continue to be steadfast in our efforts to improve attendance throughout the district. Remember, everyday counts!