School attendance linked to performance, study shows


GREEN BAY – Tuesday was the first day back to school for many students in Northeast Wisconsin.
Educators say every day spent in a classroom really does count. Frequent absences are linked directly to poor performance, a new study shows.

As parents picked up their children on the first day of class, they said they do their best to get their students to school every day.

“Some mornings are more difficult than other mornings. But for the most part, they want to go to school,” said Kathy Kelly, who has two children attending Ashwaubenon High School.

“It’s very important because if they’re not there, they can’t learn and then they fall behind,” said Heather Burnell, who has a son attending Ashwaubenon High School.

That’s just what a national study by the group Attendance Works showed. The group looked at the National Assessment for Education Progress test results, and attendance rates. Students missing three or more days a month scored 12 to 18 points lower on reading tests than their classmates with perfect attendance.

School administrators say it’s no surprise that students do better at school when they’re in their desks.

“Students who are here and on time can learn from school, they can learn from their teachers they can learn from a classroom environment,” said Dirk Ribbens, Associate Principal at Ashwaubenon High School.

“We start to see a lot of negative effects, and they can happen very quickly, specifically in math and reading. Everything we teach builds on the last lesson so a student missing a couple days in a row and falling behind, the importance of that daily attendance just builds and builds and ties directly to those test scores and achievement,” said Emily Jahnke, a school social worker at Nicolet Elementary in Green Bay.

Some parents say students are more likely to skip class in high school.

“That is a tough thing. I try to keep an eye on him, and the school knows if he’s not there to call me. And then I hunt him down,” said Burnell.

But elementary school social workers in Green Bay say truancy can be a problem even in the younger grades.

“Obviously when the student is younger a lot more responsibility goes on the parents. But we have similar struggles with truancy,” said Jahnke. “For a lot of kindergarten parents it’s hard to see the tie, but it directly affects the drop-out rates as well.”

Schools say if parents are struggling with transportation issues, there is help available to get their children to school on time each day. Parents should contact their school office, counselor or social worker for help.

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