SJSD Launches Attendance Initiative

(August 14, 2017) – As the new school year begins, the
St. Joseph School District is partnering with parents, students, and community members to combat the
important issue of chronic absenteeism.

Clearly defined, chronic absenteeism is when students are repeatedly absent from school for any excused or unexcused reason for approximately 18 days of school or more. The St. Joseph School District seeks to tackle the issue of chronic absenteeism with a campaign called Strive for 5, encouraging parents and students to strive for less than five days absent per school year.

Why is it important to address the issue of chronic absenteeism? Attendance in Kindergarten can be an early indicator of chronic absenteeism. During the 2016-17 school year, 19.5% of SJSD Kindergarten and 1st Graders were chronically absent. These high absence rates in lower grades set unhealthy patterns for the future. Research shows that children who struggle to read on grade level by 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.

To generate excitement among young students, the district is installing Leader Boards at each elementary school. The Leader Boards are large dry-erase boards that document each grade’s attendance per month in an effort to foster inter-class competition. Furthermore, personal attendance calendars are being made available to elementary students so they can track their daily attendance at home with parents.

At the secondary education level, students are making more independent decisions about their attendance.  “Our district-wide chronic absence rates skyrocket to over 30% at the junior and senior grade levels,” says Kendra Lau, SJSD Director of Assessment.

The approach of Strive for 5 at the secondary education level shifts towards helping students make informed decisions about their future. Informative posters and strategic attendance policies help prepare students for college and career readiness upon graduation.

Strive for 5 is not a one-year commitment from the district. This year, the focus of Strive for 5 is to educate parents, students and community members on the effects of chronic absence and to establish a goal of less than five days absent per school year. In the years that come, the district is taking a multi-faceted approach towards identifying, understanding and eliminating underlying issues that feed chronic absence.