We are excited for the year ahead and want to share with you a new initiative you will start to see across the Willard School District.
The "Attendance Matters" campaign is a yearlong, district-wide attendance awareness effort aimed at helping students, families, and community members understand the importance of school attendance and its direct impact on student achievement.
You will see data, communications, and information shared throughout the year as a part of the campaign. We encourage you to engage with the materials and do your part to help us increase attendance percentages back to their pre-pandemic rates.
Why is the district starting an attendance awareness campaign?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country have experienced a steady decline in attendance rates among all grade levels. The national chronic absenteeism rate has skyrocketed since the pandemic, from 16% in 2019 to an estimated 33% in 2022.
In the following graph, you will see proportional attendance rates for each grade level across the Willard School District from the 2018-2019 school year in comparison to the 2022-2023 school year. Each grade saw a decrease in attendance rates from pre-pandemic levels.
Why does attendance matter?
While there are several reasons attendance matters, the most important is this—attendance directly impacts student achievement. A student is considered chronically absent when they miss at least 10% of the school year—that's just two days per month! Statistics show that students who are chronically absent are at a higher risk of falling behind, scoring lower on standardized tests, and even dropping out.
These implications are not only reflected in national data, they're reflected in Willard student's data as well. The data in the following chart is based on Willard High School students only for the 22-23 school year and shows a direct correlation between attendance and GPA.
However, absenteeism does not only affect high school students. Absenteeism is a problem as early as Preschool and Kindergarten. Young children build the foundation of their education in the early elementary years. Chronic absenteeism in elementary school can have a negative impact on student achievement for years to come.
Through foundational lessons of math, reading, and writing, early childhood and elementary students develop key skills that they will build on as they continue through education. Building the habit of attendance in early grades can influence a student's chances of graduating from high school.
Not only does attendance impact academics, it impacts student social-emotional development as well. When students miss school, they miss out on vital learning experiences, connections with students and teachers, critical thinking, relationship building, and more. Attendance Matters!
Did you know that the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education recommends that, at minimum, 90% of districts’ population attend school 90% of the time? By missing just two days a month your student falls below the minimum state recommended instructional time. Missouri student attendance is calculated by minute, not by day. Every minute counts!
While it’s important to show up in order to succeed, we understand that some things are inevitable. Below is a calendar of the most ideal dates to schedule important appointments and vacations to optimize attendance. The calendar is also available for download here.
Note: The highlighted days on the "ideal dates" calendar indicate days the district is already closed or not holding classes due to breaks, Professional Development days or holidays. Therefore, students who have an appointment or scheduled vacation on these days will not miss any learning opportunities.
While we know that attendance is important, we also want to create a safe and healthy learning environment. We understand absences may be required due to illness. We have created a Wellness Checklist, which is available for download here, for families to utilize when considering any symptoms their student might be experiencing before heading to school.
Students should stay home if they have a persistent cough, temperature over 100 degrees (with or without medicine), vomiting or diarrhea, pink or crusty eyes, a skin rash, or instructions from a doctor to stay away from others. Students can head to school if they have been without any of these symptoms for 24 hours or who have a runny nose or slight cough, but no other symptoms. These are the procedures by which the Willard School District operated through its wellness policy before the COVID-19 pandemic, and has continued to emphasize in the years since.
If a student is sick and unable to come to school, families should notify their building's front office as soon as possible.
The Willard School District cares about the mental well-being of our students, and we have learned that students who miss school actually tend to feel more anxious and stressed due to falling being. Attendance Matters!
The Willard School District understands that families may have additional challenges which serve as barriers to getting their students to school. Please connect with your building principal to learn about what resources exist. One great resource available to our Willard students and their families is our Willard Care to Learn Chapter, which helps Willard students with emergent health, hunger, and hygiene needs. This can range from a toothbrush to a weekend backpack of food. Willard School social workers, Erica Russell and Merikate Alexander, help to facilitate these services. Additionally, if your family needs help getting your students to and/or from school, you can always request transportation in your Parent Portal.