Our mission for Marysville Schools is Every Student … 100 percent … proficient in reading and math, graduating on time and prepared for college and career. Over the past five years we have made significant gains — including a 20 percent increase in our on-time-graduation rate. Still we have a long way to go.
To reach our goals we know that Every Day Counts. Students still go to school 180 days a year, just like they did 50 years ago. Today, knowledge is doubling every two years. The average student has access to more computer power than the President of the United States did twenty years ago. And, because we are a global community, our students need to be prepared to compete worldwide for family wage jobs.
You’ve likely heard about the canary in the coal mine. If the air supply in the mine goes down, the canary is the first to sense the impact and lets the miners know it is time to get out.
“Leading indicators” are also used in education. They provide early warnings about things that limit student success. Things like regular, on-time attendance, third grade on-grade-level reading, taking and passing eighth grade Algebra and Advanced Placement classes. And we know that just one year of college doubles a student’s lifetime earnings compared to having only a high school diploma.
Attendance matters a lot. All of the above indicators depend on regular attendance. As one study puts it, “Poor school attendance is one of the primary indicators of students at risk dropping out of school before earning a high school diploma.” In our Marysville School District “Steps to Success” graphic, attendance is the very first and most important step in the staircase to student success.
So, how does Marysville measure up in attendance? Teachers average one day off per month for illness, meaning they are absent 5 percent of the time — in school 95 percent of the time. We use that same standard, 95 percent attendance, to measure student attendance. School year-to-date figures show less than 60 percent of our students attend school 95 percent of the time. That means that 40 percent — four out of 10 students — may have big gaps in their learning due to many missed learning opportunities.
School attendance matters. When we look for “just right” books for students to read one test is the five finger rule. If the student does not know five words on a page of print, the text is likely too difficult and the student will struggle to understand what they are reading. Chronic absences mean that students struggle to understand their next lessons in reading, in math, in science, and in every subject they missed.
When students miss key ideas, they sense that they have fallen behind. They no longer feel confident in their ability to learn and grow. They may have fewer friends in school and make excuses to miss even more school. One report says students who do not attend school regularly miss out on building positive relationships with peers and adults.
The good news is that you can help. One of the best ways to prevent future drop outs is to make sure that your child attends school each and every day. Attendance is important at all levels, beginning as early as Kindergarten. Ensuring that students attend school — all day, every day — helps prevent learning gaps. Stressing the importance of attendance helps build strong work habits, strong schools, strong communities and strong futures.
We know that you want the very best for your child, just as we do for every student in the Marysville School District. We take our charge to educate every child seriously — but they can’t learn if they are not in school. Together we can stress the importance of attending school. There is a relationship between student attendance and student achievement. Remember, every student counts … and every day counts.
Wendy Fryberg is director and vice-president for the Marysville School District board of directors.