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Chemung County Executive and District Superintendents Come Together to Celebrate September as Attendance Awareness Month

“Chemung County Executive and District Superintendents Come Together to Celebrate September as Attendance Awareness Month”

County leaders pledge to engage community, parents, and students in concerted effort to reduce chronic absenteeism
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ELMIRA HEIGHTS - Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli along with Superintendents from Chemung County Schools have joined a nationwide effort to celebrateAttendance Awareness Monthin September and have pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year. At a press conference Santulli was joined by area superintendents; Hillary Austin of Elmira City Schools , Mary Beth Fiore of the Elmira Heights School District, Ralph Marino from the Horseheads Central School District and Joe Morgan from Spencer-Van Etten, and community leaders to address the problem of chronic absenteeism in our schools and launch the School Matters! Chemung campaign in our local districts.

Born out of the Chemung County Schools Leadership Group and the School Readiness Project, the group recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows that at this point absenteeism begins to affect student performance. 

Chronic absence is not just a high school problem.  Nationally, as many as one out of 10 students miss 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences every year in kindergarten and first grade. Sadly, in Chemung County the figure is more staggering with one in two, or 50% of children missing more than 10% of school days in kindergarten last year.

The research shows that chronic absence predicts lower 3rd grade reading proficiency, course failure and eventual dropout. The impact hits low-income students particularly hard, especially if they don’t have the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom.  They are more likely to face barriers getting to school, such as unreliable transportation and chronic health issues.

“This is important to all of us, not just those with school-age children,” Santulli said. “When our schools graduate more students, on time, our communities and our economy are stronger. We have more people who are prepared for the workplace and more engaged in our community’s civic life.”

"We know that we will never narrow the achievement gap or reduce our dropout rate until we bring this problem under control, and that means starting early," said Mary Beth Fiore.  "All our efforts to improve curriculum and instruction won't matter much if kids are not in school."

This September, schools, government leaders, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others around the nation are coming together to deliver the message that every school day counts. They are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, dig deeper into attendance data and work with community partners to improve school attendance starting as soon as children enter school. 

During Attendance Awareness Month, we are asking school leaders, community advocates, parents and students to act upon these critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism in their schools:
     • Build a habit and a culture of regular attendance
     • Use data to monitor when chronic absence is a problem 
     • Identify and solve barriers to getting children to school. 

Study after study shows that chronic absence is an early warning indicator that a student will drop out of a high school. A recent study from Utah found that a student who was chronically absent in any year between eighth and 12th grade was 7.4 times more likely to drop out than students with better attendance.

“We can turn the tide on chronic absenteeism by making it a priority, driving with data and using positive supports to engage families and students in showing up to school every day,” added Fiore.