In conjunction with Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Deer Park Schools are making a special effort to emphasize the importance of school attendance. Improving student attendance is an essential and cost-effective, but often overlooked strategy for ensuring our students stay on-track academically. Chronic absenteeism is an important early warning indicator for students that struggle academically.
You may be surprised to learn that in Deer Park, our district-wide average was 10 absences per student in the 2014-15 school year and 11 absences per student in the 2016-17 school year. Perhaps more alarming, just over 14% of our entire student population (almost 350 students!) missed more than 20 days of school in the 2016-17 school year. The good news is that chronic absenteeism is a problem we can work together to solve. We are committed to partnering with families in our district to reduce the number of absences from school. Building good attendance habits as early as preschool is vital so that children learn from a young age that being at school on time, every day is important. Consistent attendance will help children do well in high school, in college, and in the workplace.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Chronic absenteeism (unexcused and excused absences) in grades K, 1, and 2 is a primary indicator of academic struggles in grades 3, 4, and 5.
- Missing 10 percent of the 180-day school year (or about 18 days) significantly increases the chance that your student will not read or master math at the same level as their peers.
- Students who are frequently late to school or who frequently leave school early also experience diminished academic performance.
- As a parent, it is important to remember that your child’s absences can affect the whole classroom if the teacher has to slow down learning to help children catch up.
- In a study by the US Dept. of Education, it was discovered that students who have developed a pattern of chronic absenteeism in their K-8 years (three or more years of more than 12 absences) are 37% more likely to drop out of high school than their peers.
- Regular absences can be a sign that a student is losing interest in school, struggling with school work, dealing with a bully or facing some other potentially serious difficulty.
- By 9th grade, consistent patterns of attendance (students with less than 10 absences in a school year) is a better predictor of graduation rates than 8th grade test scores.
OUR PROMISE TO YOU
We know that there are a wide variety of reasons that students are absent from school, from health concerns to transportation challenges. There are many people in our schools prepared to provide help when students face challenges getting to school regularly or even getting to school on time; our teachers, nurses, support staff, and administrators are all ready to assist students and families in overcoming just about any obstacle to regular attendance.
SCHOOL POLICIES AND STATE LAWS
Finally, it’s important that you understand our school policies and procedures, as well as Washington State Law related to attendance. Washington’s mandatory attendance law, called the Becca Bill, requires children from age 8 to 17 to attend a public school, private school, or a district-approved homeschool program. Children that are 6 or 7 years old are not required to be enrolled in school. However, if parents enroll their 6 or 7 year-old, the student must attend full-time.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
We, the school, are required to take daily attendance and notify you when your student has an unexcused absence. Please refer to Board Policy 3122 for a more specific definition of constitutes a valid excused absence; building administrators will refer to the language in this policy when determining when absences are excused or unexcused. Please review the following elements from our district’s attendance procedure:
- When a student accumulates five (5) excused absences in any month, or ten (10) or more excused absences in the school year, a building representative will connect with you to identify any barriers to regular attendance as well as identify supports available to you and your student. This will be an opportunity to review what constitutes an excused absence.
- When a student accumulates three (3) unexcused absences in one month, state law (RCW 28A.225.020) requires we meet with you and your student to identify the barriers and supports available to ensure regular attendance.
- In cases where a student reaches five (5) unexcused absences in any month or ten (10) unexcused absences within the school year, the district will – as required by law – initiate the process of filing a petition with Spokane County Juvenile Court, alleging a violation of RCW 28A.225.010 (Washington’s mandatory school attendance laws). The petition may be automatically stayed and your student and family may be referred to Deer Park School District’s Community Truancy Board. If your student continues to be truant you may need to go to court.
Please be assured that for students who experience difficulty establishing regular patterns of attendance, it is our intent to work with families to overcome barriers and provide support. We’re committed to working with students and families to ensure they’re at school regularly and experiencing success.