Mitch Gargac

Attendance/Truancy Officer

Serving the Madison County Schools of Jonathan Alder, London City, Madison Plains, Jefferson Local, and Tolles Career Center

Every day that a student is absent is a lost opportunity for learning. Too many absences not only can affect achievement for the absent student but also can disrupt learning for the entire class. A student absent just 2 days a month misses 10% of school for the year. An effective attendance program is more than just turning over names of students who are missing school to the district/county attendance officer to visit.

 

Engage students/parents early

Teachers can have the biggest impact on improving a child’s attendance by engaging students and parents first before it becomes an excessive absence or habitual truancy issue. By the time an attendance issue has escalated to an administrator or attendance officer for action, a student may already have missed too many days of school, making them at risk for future issues.

 

Recognize good or improved attendance

Schools that reward and promote good attendance have lower absenteeism. Recognizing students quarterly in school assemblies or in front of their peers is a good strategy to improve attendance. It is also important to recognize improved attendance of those students who may not have perfect attendance but are getting better. Having class competitions within grade levels and rewarding the winners (banners, ribbons, etc) is an effective method to improve overall school attendance.

 

Monitor attendance data

Every school has a system to track daily attendance (DASL/Progressbook etc). This is not just the responsibility of the school attendance secretary or school administrator. Teachers and parents should also be monitoring student attendance and engaging those students who are struggling. Ohio Attendance laws (Ohio Revised Code 3321) require an absence intervention meeting with parents/students to be held when a student becomes habitually truant (30 hours consecutive unexcused, 42 hours in a calendar month unexcused, or 72 hours unexcused in a school year).  Intervention meetings should be scheduled timely and parents should be contacted a minimum of three times to participate in the intervention meeting.

 

Personalized early outreach

Does your school or community already have programs or organizations in place that could help improve student attendance?  It is important to use school attendance data to identify barriers to attendance — hunger, access to health care, homelessness, mental health issues, poor parenting skills,  transportation or other challenges all affect attendance. Churches, homeless programs, food pantries in addition to local county services are just a few that can provide personalized outreach to help students/families who are struggling.

 

Develop a response to attendance barriers

Identifying the barriers to poor attendance and creating an appropriate response is critical in improving attendance. School enrollment is a barrier often overlooked in students with attendance issues. A school district’s enrollment policy should be reviewed annually to ensure it is meeting state law and federal homeless guidelines ( McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act) to reduce barriers to good attendance. School officials should also promote mental health counseling and offer a list of resources for parents for those students struggling. Both Champaign and Madison Counties offer parenting programs for parents needing additional help. Filing truancy on a student or charges on a parent should be the last resort when all else has proven unsuccessful.

1 Comment

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