90% by 2020 community partnership targets absenteeism in schools

CIRI vice president lends hand to raise awareness

Even in the early days of a new school year, some students face a challenge that will put them at a disadvantage: They will be among the 7.5 million students across the country who miss nearly a month of school every year, a factor that can correlate with poor performance at every grade level.

In Anchorage, almost 22 percent of students were chronically absent last year, and nearly 11 percent of the class of 2013 dropped out before graduation. These numbers are higher for Alaska Native and American Indian youth – nearly 37 percent were chronically absent and just over 14 percent dropped out before graduation.

Regular attendance is the precursor to developing the essential skills students will need to be successful in the workforce and keep our community and economy strong. This year, Anchorage recognized September as Attendance Awareness Month, and the “90% by 2020” Community Partnership is continuing its year-long effort to convey the message that every school day counts if we want our children to be successful.

Greg Razo, CIRI shareholder and vice president of Government Contracting, serves on the 90% by 2020 Leadership Team. He stresses the importance of improving attendance and notes, “We can’t afford to think of absenteeism as simply an administrative matter. Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve schools. Excellent curriculum and instruction won’t amount to much if students aren’t showing up to benefit from them.”

The 90% by 2020 Community Partnership is calling on the whole community to help increase attendance rates in the Anchorage School District. Businesses can offer attendance incentives, educate employees about the importance of education, or provide employees paid time off to volunteer. Volunteers from businesses, faith-based groups and nonprofits can provide adults to mentor chronically absent students and reach out to parents. All adults can let kids know how important it is to attend every day of school. And kids can support each other and reach out when their friends miss school.

Chronic absence can have consequences throughout a child’s academic career. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, and students who don’t read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school. By middle school, absenteeism becomes one of the leading indicators that a child will drop out of high school.

A key step in reversing absenteeism is letting families know about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day. It’s up to parents to build a habit of good attendance, enforce bedtimes and other routines and avoid vacations while school is in session. Teachers, businesses, faith leaders and community volunteers can also reinforce this message.

The Anchorage School District has set a Destination 2020 attendance goal that every student will attend school at least 90 percent of the days enrolled, and through these efforts has seen an increase in the districtwide attendance rate from 74.1 percent in 2011-12 to 78.5 percent in 2013-14.

Join us in our effort to make every day count. Think about what you can do within your own family and your own neighborhood to help get more kids to school. For more information about the importance of attendance, please visit www.90by2020.org.

90 by 2020 Ad