If you’re not at work, you can’t get work done. If you’re not at home, you can’t cook dinner or clean. If a student isn’t in school, he or she cannot learn. September is “Attendance Awareness Month” to ensure students start the year strong creating good habits for school attendance. Students who miss 10 percent or more, about 20 days of an academic year, are more likely to fall behind and drop out than students who attend school regularly. If you think about it, 20 days is essentially a month’s worth of school – a significant loss of time in the classroom!
Missing an entire month of anything makes it hard to catch up. Anyone who has taken a week off of work knows what catch-up can look like. In the early years, students with low attendance fall academically behind by about three months over the course of a calendar year with cumulative impact; by the time they reach middle school this gap has increased to almost two years! Two years! Making up this time is a huge challenge, but for some families it’s even harder to get their children to school on-time, every day.
There is a wide array of barriers that make it hard for kids to get to school. Some students miss school because they walk but don’t have a proper winter coat (in Cleveland, no coat = no going outside in January and February). Maybe the student comes from a low-income family with a single-parent working three jobs to put food on the table. For the oldest child this means he or she has to get the younger siblings to school, making the eldest late every day. Or maybe that student also has to work outside the home to help put food on the table.
United Way of Greater Cleveland is working to address this issue on a year-round basis through our Community Impact Agenda. We’re working with children and their families in elementary and middle schools to identify and address factors that may be contributing to attendance problems because we know these are warning signs that put our kids at risk of school failure.
Every member of the community can do something to show education is a priority in your neighborhood. Check and see if your local school has an attendance campaign – call them to see how you can help make sure students start off on the right foot! The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has just launched an intense war on absenteeism called “Get to School – You can Make It” – you can follow them on Instagram and Twitter @Get2SchoolCLE or stop by your local school to pick up a yard sign. This sends the message that education is important for your community.
Kids can’t learn if they’re not in school. The ripple effects of not having a solid education are severe. Support your local schools and make sure kids get there on time, every day.