Sept. 25, 2019 – Guilford County Schools plans to build off recent academic successes with the district’s new attendance campaign: “BE HERE TO GET THERE: Attend. Achieve. Succeed.”
When the Board of Education released its 2022 Strategic Plan, IGNITE Learning, in March 2018, the primary focus was on classroom instruction and student achievement. The district developed a more robust curricula, purchased better and more culturally relevant instructional materials and invested more in professional learning. They also changed strategies for teacher recruitment and extended the reach of the most effective teachers and principals, while strengthening career and technical education programming and fostering a greater sense of belonging in classrooms and schools.
The numbers are in and they prove that the strategic investments the Board made is paying dividends in the classroom for students. In recently released results by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for the first time in nearly a decade, Guilford County Schools’ elementary and middle school students scored higher on state tests in every subject and at every grade level. Approximately 73.5 percent of GCS schools met or exceeded growth and GCS reduced the number of state-identified low-performing schools from 42 in 2018 to 36 in 2019.
“As we saw with our accountability results, we’ve made strides but there is still so much work to do,” said Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras. “We have a chronic absence rate of 15.6 percent. That’s approximately 10,000 students who because of various life circumstances, are struggling to attend school and therefore not benefitting from instruction.”
It’s not just a problem in GCS. Nationally, nearly eight million students miss almost a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year. GCS hopes the new campaign will raise awareness of the importance of attendance, and therefore improve the chances of students’ success by keeping them in class.
“We know we must bring this issue of chronic absenteeism under control if we are to close the achievement gap and transform learning outcomes for all students,” said Shontria Carrington, GCS supervisor of dropout prevention and social work. “However, it won’t be easy. This is not just an issue of truancy but also challenges families may face due to health concerns, unreliable transportation and other complications that can be out of a student’s control. This campaign allows us to bring the issue to the forefront of our work and involve our students, families and community in shaping better futures for our children.”
Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows that’s the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance.
Attendance is directly linked to several success indicators at all grade levels. Research shows missing school during the early elementary years makes it more difficult for children to learn in later years. By sixth grade, absenteeism is one of three signs that a student may drop out of high school. By ninth grade, regular and high attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than eighth grade test results.
The student-centered attendance campaign will encourage students to attend class every day to improve their chances of graduation, completing college and succeeding in life. Schools will also participate through regularly scheduled activities that involve students and families.