Over the past couple of days I have learned some shocking news about the success of students in public education. Let’s just say, attendance is a major issue. News flash: teachers can’t help kids learn if kids are not in class.
I know there are all kinds of reasons for why kids aren’t getting to school: family issues, personal anxiety about being in school, relationship issues with fellow students or with staff, illness, economic concerns. I get it. However, I can’t help wondering if attendance and student academic success wouldn’t improve if education because a family thing, not just a public thing.
For years I have heard about the importance of family involvement, yet somehow, parents aren’t getting involved.
The most important thing parents can do that will dramatically impact school success is to value education, and specifically, attendance. Students with parents who express the value of dependability, punctuality, and being present, are far less likely to have high levels of avoidable absence issues. There is a clear link between education and students’ health, wealth, and happiness. Parents are the key to life long learning.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think parents and families always know how to get involved. I don’t think they always understand the impact of attendance on the student’s education. I don’t think they understand the true value of education and the value of developing a habit of life long learning.
I know. Parents are busy. They be hesitant to become involved in school because they feel they don’t have extra time, they don’t have skills to contribute, or they don’t speak fluent English. However, what if the biggest obstacle is the fact that parents may not believe they are welcome?
How do you change this?
I believe it starts with a belief that student success is a shared interest of both school and family, seeing parents as partners in the learning process, and then activating that partnership. Activating a partnership in learning begins with educating parents.
Help parents feel comfortable in the school. After all, they may have had a poor experience in school when they were students. Maybe the school open house night needs to be more than once a year and needs to feel more like a party than a solemn event. Play games, have food, have music, and invite the community, not just the parents. Back to school night could even involve the bus. Some families may need transportation to the event. Party bus anyone? By offering a simple dinner at the school on night where you are having an event such as Back to School night or Parent/Teacher Conferences, families can bring kids and not worry about providing for dinner during those scheduled meetings. Offering convenient services to parents can make it easier for them to get involved.
Help parents know how they can be involved. I believe that a school with a commitment to parent involvement, actively help parents learn a variety of ways to be involved. Consider holding workshops to educate parents about what goes on in a classroom, how to navigate the websites or PowerSchool (grading system used in school), or simple parenting tips for homework completion. Teach parents strategies for discussing school assignments, sharing ideas, and encouraging parent-child interaction.
Okay… I am not an expert, but I am a parent. I am a volunteer in the education system. I am a substitute teacher. I am a drama coach. I have had many opportunities to observe and to assist others develop the habit of life long learning. These experiences have taught me a few things that might help educate other parents about why attendance matters, why education matters:
Did you know that by 9th grade, regular attendance is a fair predictor of graduation rates, may even be a better predictor then 8th-grade test scores?
Did you know that your student is chronically absent if they miss 1 or 2 days of school a week? Are you underestimating the number of school days your student is missing and the impact it is having on their education?
Did you know that your student’s absences are a “red flag?” Absences can be a sign that your student is losing interest in school, struggling with learning, struggling with interpersonal relationships, or struggling other serious issues.
Did you know that you are the key difference in your student’s success? Making school attendance a priority for your family makes a difference.
Did you know that helping your student to develop and maintain daily routines, such as finishing homework, getting a good night’s sleep and eating breakfast makes a difference?
Did you know that talking to your student about their school day helps the students recall information they learned that day and helps them to cement new knowledge into their brains?
Did you know the following parent-school partnership suggestions make a huge impact on your students success?
- Make appointments after school hours
- Don’t let your child stay home unless they are truly sick (fever, vomiting, contagious rashes, green boogers, etc). Headaches and stomach aches may be a sign of anxiety. It may be better to assess if your student feels safe at school, is experiencing behavior issues, or struggling with school discipline policies. If these are problems, work with your school. Trust me. It is okay to be on a first name basis with staff at school. It is highly recommended that they know who you are when the see you walk in.
- Help your student stay engaged and active.
- Stay on top of academic progress. If your student is struggling, help them to advocate for them self, seek help from teachers, or even, hire a tutor.
- By aware of your students friends and social contacts. Peer pressure can lead to skipping school. In contrast, students who feel isolated also may skip school. Help your child learn about how to make and maintain good friends.
- Know your school’s attendance policy.
- Talk to teachers and administrators if you notice changes in behavior with your student. Teachers and administrators are your partners, not your adversaries. Their goals are to assist you as the parent and to assist your student to be successful in life long learning.
- Check your students attendance regularly. My student’s school as a parent log on where I can check grades and attendance every week… and I do. Then, check in with your student and talk about what you learned. Listen to learn. Eventually, your students will spill their guts as you listen and ask questions to learn about their education experiences without jumping to judgments and accusations.
- Praise you student for good attendance and improvements that you see.
“It takes a village” is true. Everyone needs to work in partnership with others for students to succeed as life long learner. Everyone is on the same field. Everyone is working toward building the adults of the future. Let’s all work together to increase school attendance and student success. Each person really does make a difference… especially families.