Every once in a while, you’ll see a news report about a student who has had perfect attendance for the entire length of his or her school career. That student has been in school every single day from the first day of kindergarten through the final day of high school. The reason this kind of story makes the news is that it is relatively rare. The average school career is peppered with absences – and some students are absent more often than others. Studies have shown, however, that school attendance is a leading indicator of future success.
The Effects of Chronic Absenteeism
Chronic absenteeism – defined as a student missing 15 or more days per school year – affects up to 14% of school populations. These students are at greater risk of not completing their academic career.
Beginning in elementary school, students missing two days of class per month end up missing about 10% of the total school year. Each absence puts them further behind their peers, especially when it comes to literacy. By third grade, learning to read becomes reading to learn. Students who read at grade level by the end of third grade are three to four times more likely to graduate high school and pursue post-graduate education.
Middle schoolers who habitually miss school struggle more when they get to high school. Once they enter high school, students who continue to rack up absences fall even further behind their peers and are more likely to drop out. These dropouts face a lifetime of poor employment opportunities as well as a greater likelihood of incarceration.
Making School Attendance a Priority
Clearly, working to improve attendance at all school levels benefits students as well as the community at large. Educators must begin at the early elementary level to teach the importance of attending school every day. This message should carry through middle school and high school, as well.
Traditional systems of school discipline often penalize the very students who most need intervention and support to remain in school. These students are often identified as “at-risk” and struggle with behavior or learning challenges. Outside factors such as illness, family challenges, and poverty also affect attendance rates.
Adopting a PBIS framework changes the focus of discipline from punishment of negative behaviors to recognition of positive ones. The social-emotional connection that teachers build with students through PBIS helps to build a positive school climate. Students who see school as a positive place to be are more apt to attend regularly. And as any educator can tell you, happy students are more successful… and success breeds success.
Make Every Day Count
Using PBIS to refocus attention on positive behaviors will reduce problem behaviors, improve perceptions of school safety, and increase academic success. This improved discipline model will lead to fewer detentions and suspensions and keep students where they need to be: in class. But how do you make attendance a priority?
Here are some strategies to improve school attendance:
- Make school a welcoming and engaging place
- Connect with at-risk students
- Involve parents
- Award PBIS points for attendance achievements
- Focus on attendance schoolwide
Identifying readiness or responsibility as one of the core principles of your PBIS framework gives you a natural avenue to teach the importance of school attendance. Students who feel a sense of community and acceptance at school will make every effort to be there every time the school opens its doors.
Track your attendance and discipline stats and you will find parallels between the two. PBIS Rewards offers a wealth of data for school administrators to examine. Office discipline referrals, staff fidelity, and student earning patterns give you an accurate picture of how PBIS is working for your school. Want to know more about PBIS Rewards? Contact us!