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The Butte School District Board of Trustees recently approved a proclamation recognizing September as Attendance Awareness Month. This proclamation is part of the Butte School District’s Graduation Matters initiative, Attendance Matters: All Day Every Day! The purpose of the initiative is to raise public awareness about the importance of school attendance and the effects of chronic absenteeism.

Chronic absence from school, which is defined as missing at least 10 percent of the academic year or two days per month, is a major predictor of low academic achievement and student dropout. National research has demonstrated that children who are chronically absent from preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade. Students who do not read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school. On the high school level, poor attendance is a better predictor of school dropout than test scores. A recent study conducted in Utah found that chronically absent students in grades 7-12 are seven times more likely to drop out of school.

Results from the Butte School District 2016 state assessment data align with the national research. For example, 90 percent of our middle school students who were present 98 percent of the academic school year scored on or above proficiency in English/Language Arts as compared to only 68 percent of students who were present 90 percent of the year. Among third and sixth grade students missing 10 percent of the school year, only 69 percent of those students scored on or above proficiency in English /Language Arts. This data sends a powerful message: regular school attendance is paramount to student success.

Chronic absenteeism also has a negative influence on other students. Each child brings to the classroom a wealth of ideas, perspectives, and abilities that contribute to the learning environment of all students. The Butte School District values the contributions of each of our students and understands that all students benefit when everyone is present and actively engaged in the learning process.

The good news is that by working together we can solve the problem of chronic absenteeism. Throughout the month of September, the Butte School District has pledged to raise awareness of the importance of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.

During Attendance Awareness Month, we are asking local businesses and public entities to display posters and messages promoting school attendance. Additionally, we will be providing information on how community organizations, agencies, businesses, and individual community members can get involved in promoting regular attendance throughout the school year.

Everyone in our community can make a difference by helping students and families understand that going to school all day, every day, is critical to their academic achievement. Let’s make school attendance a community priority so that all our students achieve success!

-- Judy Jonart, superintendent, Butte School District

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