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Being absent from school holds our kids back

Access to High-Quality Schools, College & Career Readiness, Parent & Family Engagement | 11/02/2016

London Lamar
Memphis Organizer

As an Organizer, London works to improve the education system and schools in Memphis.

Here, Every Day, Ready, On Time. That’s what it means to be a HERO at school and frankly in life. Showing up to face your obstacles, eager and ready to accomplish your goals influences probability of success in childhood and adulthood.

Regular and consistent school attendance is vital to academic success. Chronic absenteeism and truancy can have lasting negative impacts on student growth. Delinquent behavior, low literacy skills, grade repetition, and high school drop out are just a few of the outcomes that absenteeism may cause. 

Research indicates that student growth begins to suffer academically if 10% or more of school days are missed, and students in Tennessee who do not attend school regularly are five times more likely to drop out than their peers with satisfactory attendance. Attendance is even more critical in early childhood as too many absences beginning in Kindergarten can affect a child’s ability to learn to read and write, and cause them to fall behind in school.

In one Memphis school, its leaders and parents are working together to ensure students are positioned to succeed and collectively setting an example for how to maintain and increase attendance.

Vision Preparatory Charter School (Vision Prep) has one of the highest school attendance rates in the city - an average of 95%. Executive Director, Tom Benton says the keys to keeping attendance high are providing structure and making students love coming to school.

“We know that students, teachers, and parents appreciate structure in school and in academics. Through great lesson planning, our teachers make learning exciting, engaging and fun – which drives great conduct and attendance.”

The school also uses an attendance board to track, highlight and celebrate student attendance daily.

“I know from personal experience how hard it is when you fall behind. I grew up in foster care, went to multiple schools, and had no consistent way to [get to] school, which made it hard for me to catch up. I make sure that my child doesn’t have to go through that and deal with any additional stress.“ 

Tabatha Jones, the parent of a Vision Prep kindergarten student, agrees that structure is important to encourage attendance. But ensuring that her daughter, Kiara, maintains HERO standing is about more than attendance, it’s about giving her child a better shot at succeeding in school than she had.

"I know from personal experience how hard it is when you fall behind. I grew up in foster care, went to multiple schools, and had no consistent way to [get to] school, which made it hard for me to catch up. I make sure that my child doesn’t have to go through that and deal with any additional stress."

She advises other parents to plan ahead, maintain a strict schedule, ask for help, and carpool to ensure children are attending school daily and arriving on time, in addition to nurturing your child’s budding independence.

“After school, homework is always done first. I set a daily alarm for myself at 6:20 a.m. and in the morning I get up and make sure everything is set out such as uniform and toothbrush. I also put an alarm in my child’s room for 6:30am so that she knows when to wake up every morning. It teaches her how to get up on her own.”

In Shelby County, chronic absenteeism is a growing concern. In the 2014-2015 school year, 17.3 % (20,284 students) missed 10 or more of the required minimum of 180 days in attendance, an increase from the previous school year.

At Stand for Children, we're encouraging parents to commit to making sure your child reaches HERO status by taking the following action:

 » Set a regular routine for homework and bedtime.

 » Get to know your child’s teachers and administrators.

 » Make sure your child knows that regular school attendance matters.

 » Seek help from your school or community if you are facing tough challenges.

 » Develop back-up plans for getting to school in case of emergencies, such as calling on a family member, a neighbor, or another parent.

Parental involvement is essential to combat school absenteeism and small changes can have a huge impact at home and at school.

Stay engaged with Stand for Children for updates and tips on how to support your child’s academic growth and advancement.

Be your child’s HERO! 

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ABOUT STAND FOR CHILDREN TENNESSEE

Stand for Children Tennessee’s mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education or career training. Learn more at www.stand.org/tennessee.

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  • This is awesome! I graduated from Melrose High School Golden Wildcats
    Jeanette Ratlif...

    November 4, 2016 8:45 AM