COLUMN by TJ PARKS, HMS superintendent
Perhaps Mark Twain put it best: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” The quote was used to discredit statistical analysis. All too often we rely on statistics – which we correlate as data – to explain the past and predict the future.
The problem is that data is only as good as the relationship it has with the topic. Ninety-five percent attendance is seen as a positive rate for children being present at school each day. At HMS, when 95 percent of our students are in attendance, 500 children are not at school. On average, 18 percent of absent children are chronically truant. That means 90 of our students are considered “chronically absent” – defined as missing two days each month.
• Research tells us that 80 percent of kindergarten and first grade students who are chronically absent will not read at grade level by third grade. And by sixth grade chronic absences becomes the leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
As a result, HMS has embarked on a “High Five” campaign to curtail excessive absences. It is unrealistic to expect students to have perfect attendance. Students should not come to school when they are sick. We are asking parents and students to set a goal of missing five or fewer days of school this year
Some more statistics:
• It can take as many as 3 or 4 days for a child to catch up after one day of missed schooling.
• Students with good Kindergarten attendance are five times less likely to drop out of high school than their peers.
• Reducing chronic absence can help close achievement gaps.
What can we do as a community?
• Employers should have conversations with their workers to ensure their children are attending school without being considered chronically absent.
• Encourage children to attend school.
• Mentor a child (contact Amy Rhoads at Central Office about becoming a mentor for a HMS student).
The “High Five” is not a punitive program. High Five aims to increase academic performance for all children by allowing teachers to teach. When a child is absent the teacher has to take time from the entire class to assist the student returning to class.
HMS will have incentives for students who attain the five or fewer days absent. We also are willing to place brochures in businesses, make presentations to employees and partner with businesses throughout our community. Monetary donations are also accepted to help increase incentives for our children who surpass the High Five expectations. Let’s make a difference in a child’s life by encouraging them to meet the goal of “High Five.”