One of the most important things your child can do to achieve academic success is also one of the most basic: going to school every day. In fact, research has shown that your child's attendance record may be the biggest factor influencing her academic success.
Benefits of daily attendance
By attending class regularly, your child is more likely to keep up with the daily lessons and assignments, and take quizzes and tests on time.
- Achievement: San Diego Unified School District found that students who attended school regularly were more likely to pass reading and math assessments than students who didn't attend school regularly.
- Opportunity: For older students, being in school every day gives them a chance to learn more about college and scholarship opportunities, and to take the important exams they need to build a successful academic record.
- Exposure to the English language: Regular school attendance can also help students who are learning English by giving them the chance to master the skills and information they need more quickly and accurately — even in other subjects!
- Being part of the school community: Just by being present at school, your child is learning how to be a good citizen by participating in the school community, learning valuable social skills, and developing a broader world view.
- The importance of education: Your commitment to school attendance will also send a message to your child that education is a priority for your family, going to school every day is a critical part of educational success, and that it's important to take your responsibilities seriously — including going to school.
When your child misses school
So what happens when your child needs to miss school due to a medical appointment or family trip? Sometimes these situations can't be avoided. In such cases:
- Contact the school immediately. The absence needs to be excused, and talk with your child's teacher to make sure your child doesn't fall behind on any of the lessons that she missed.
- Judge these situations carefully. Mandatory student attendance is a policy that schools take seriously. Unexcused absences will go on a student's permanent record; the consequences of your child missing class can include falling behind on lessons, lower participation grades, and poorer performance on quizzes and tests.
- Keep in mind that public schools lose money when their students are absent. Public schools receive money based on the number of students who attend each day. When a student misses just one day of school, the school loses money — imagine how much a school loses when many students miss many days throughout the year.
What you can do
As a parent or guardian, it is possible to plan ahead in order to limit your child's absences, make school attendance a priority, and help your child from falling behind if it is necessary to miss a day of school. You can do this in the following ways:
- Help your child get to school on time every day. Babysitting, problems with a car or late bus, and the weather are not permissible reasons to miss school. Frequently coming to school late may also be noted on your child's permanent record, and will make it difficult for your child to stay caught up with the first lessons of each morning. Teach your child how to set and use an alarm clock, and keep the television turned off in the morning.
- Follow the school's guidelines and attendance policy, and report excused absences immediately. At the beginning of the school year, review the school's rules and make sure you understand whom you need to call if your child is going to be absent.
- Check homework. Check each night to see that your child understands and completes the day's homework assignments.
- Take an active role. Stay involved with your child's daily experiences at school by asking how the school day went, and then listening carefully to what your child shares with you — both the successes and struggles. Make it a point to meet your child's teacher and friends.
- Locate potential sources of anxiety. If your child frequently appears upset or reluctant to go to school and cannot tell you why, schedule an appointment with his or her teacher or school counselor to talk about possible sources of the anxiety.
- Keep updated on school events and announcements. Read the school documents that your child brings home and take note of important announcements and dates, such as back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences.
- Try to limit the amount of time that your child misses school due to medical appointments or illness. If possible, avoid scheduling doctor's appointments during the school day. Allow your child to stay home only in the case of contagious or severe illnesses.
- Schedule family events with your child's school schedule in mind. Plan holiday celebrations or family trips during weekends or school vacations. In the case of family emergencies or unexpected trips, talk to your child's teacher as far in advance as possible and set up a way that your child can work ahead or bring important homework on the trip.
- Plan ahead. Encourage your child to prepare for the next school day by laying out clothes the night before and helping to fix lunches.
- Promote good health. Make sure that your child eats a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and has opportunities to exercise every day through a sports team or playtime outside.
- Create a restful environment. Finally, make sure that your child can relax before bedtime by doing something quiet like reading rather than do something stimulating, like watching television. Ensure that your child gets enough quality sleep — ideal amounts range from 8 to 12 hours. Getting enough sleep will help her get up on time, be refreshed in the morning, and feel ready for a full day of learning ahead!
By making your child's school attendance a priority, you will be taking an important step in supporting your child's school success, and setting a good example. Remember — every day counts!
Note: This information was adapted from information on San Diego Unified School's District "Every Day Counts!" attendance website in 2008.