BSD superintendent talks about chronic absence from school

By Ronald C. Spanjer, Blaine School District superintendent

Over the past year across the state of Washington, we have seen more attention given to the problem of excessive student absence from school, which is a growing trend. Last fall, the state legislature instituted more stringent direction to school districts for addressing student absence. The law was further updated by the state legislature in preparation for the 2017-18 school year.

Ronald C. Spanjer.

Over the past three months, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has provided school districts a set of analytical tools that enable a closer look at student attendance patterns. As newly prescribed by the state legislature, the definition of “chronic absence” is missing greater than 10 percent, unexcused or excused, of the total school days available.

In the Blaine school district, through the month of March, nearly 20 percent of students overall fell into the category of “chronic absent.” Our experience appears to be relatively consistent with attendance trends, or averages, across the state of Washington. As would be expected, these numbers are more heavily weighted in high school, yet all levels of the system need to address the challenge of reducing student absenteeism.

As the Blaine school district intensifies efforts to assure that students attend school on a more consistent basis, we will be engaging with the community. “Attendance Works” is a newly available, viable and heavily promoted resource program for school staff, parents and communities aimed at acknowledging that the greatest gains in addressing this issue have been realized through collective expectations and efforts across the community.

The implications of student absence from school can be quite dramatic in terms of academic performance and, for many students, significantly impacts their ability to successfully obtain a high school diploma. Community members are encouraged to get engaged and consider who in your own circles might help reinforce the significance of this issue.

Please watch for information, through this column, about how you can get directly involved in this important initiative. It is imperative that we work towards achieving measurable progress with this issue. Our students need to attend school more consistently. We can collectively do more to assure that this goal is realized.

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