Showing up is Job1

The West Shore Educational Service District Regional (WSESD) Superintendents’ Association believes the current rate of chronic student absenteeism is unacceptably high and as a result, the district has launched an Attendance Initiative it calls, “Showing Up is Job 1.”

"Showing Up is Job 1"  is also the name of the Initiative's website.

“Attendance matters,” said Dr. Jason Jeffrey, Superintendent of the WSESD. “Student engagement may be the most important prerequisite to student learning. Attendance is an area of challenge for schools across our region, the state and nation.

“If you asked me to identify one strategy that has the potential to move the needle and reduce chronic absenteeism, I would say its ensuring that every student has a relationship with one caring adult at school who purposefully encourages the student to attend and thoughtfully works with the student to eliminate barriers to coming to school.

“Encouraging students to come to school is important,” said the superintendent. “According to the National Center for Education Statistics, while educator effectiveness is a significant factor for student success, excessive absenteeism reduces even the best educators ability to impact student learning.”

         Chronic absenteeism, said Superintendent Jeffrey, is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason, which equates to students missing two or more days per month.

Jennifer Rollenhagen, MTSS Manager at the WSESD, echoed Superintendent Jeffrey’s comments and concerns.

“Research shows that 64 percent of kids with good attendance in kindergarten and first grade who missed fewer than nine days each year were reading at grade level after third grade compared to only 17 percent of kids who missed 18 or more days both those same years were reading at grade level after third grade,” said Jennifer.

“The goal is to increase student attendance from preschool to graduation so we can provide them with quality academic instruction and interventions, social opportunities to connect with their classmates and other adults and access to school and community resources. As part of the initiative, we want our schools and families to partner together and put resources in place to help kids and families be at school and on time. We know students will miss a few days of school, especially when they are sick. What we want to achieve is to minimize the amount of school missed to less than 18 days in a school year, so every child is part of the school community and gets the support they need.”

Angela Taylor, Director of State and Federal Programs at Mason County Central Schools, said “...this new attendance initiative brings focus to an area that is alarming to us all in our overall goal of helping all students succeed.”

“From the time in which our earliest preschool learners enter school we need to be aware of the possible poor patterns that are created with attendance that includes both absences and tardiness,” said Angela. “We need to foremost make sure all families feel welcomed and that our messaging is strong that in order to succeed we must have you present.

“To impact poor attendance patterns, we need to make sure we are focusing on whole child and whole family needs. Not only are we charged with meeting academic needs, but we must focus on social, emotional and health/well-being needs. Some of our students are faced with not having their basic needs met such as food, clothing and appropriate shelter. So it is part of our job now to have this awareness in helping our families break these barriers down in conjunction with our community partners.

“Our interventions and strategies are focused by offering small groups, large groups and 1:1 instruction/support,” she said. “We are also creating spaces within our buildings for additional services to be delivered. When we concentrate on the whole child and whole family we are one step closer to having a community culture of productive citizens.”

[This article is a repost of WSESD sponsored content which appeared in The Ludington Daily News on 3/28/2024.]