Mapleton works to lower absenteeism

Photo courtesy Mapleton Public Schools
Students at Monterey Community School divvy up supplies for a class lesson on the first day of school. Mapleton Public Schools kicked off its Attendance Campaign at the beginning of the school year, and has engaged parents in conversations about the importance of attendance at all parent teacher conferences, family nights and other events. Photo provided by Mapleton Public Schools

On average, students in the Mapleton district miss between four and five school days a year, and officials are working on curbing that number.

Attendance is directly correlated to a student’s achievement as well as high school graduation, said Sue-Lin Toussaint, director of Student Support Services.

“Students who are chronically absent are more likely to fall behind academically and eventually drop out of school,” she said. “We want our students present so that they can connect to their school community, achieve academic success and graduate.”

The Board of Education has set a goal to lower its absent average to 3.4 days per the school year, which is 170 days.

The district kicked off its Attendance Campaign at the beginning of the school year, which included handing out informational flyers and discussing with parents the importance of attending school and establishing a Truancy Committee. The committee is tasked with analyzing attendance trends and setting goals to lower the truancy level.

An attendance trend already identified is that there was a spike in absenteeism in first, sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th grades last year in Mapleton.

“There are a variety of reasons students miss school, from illnesses and doctors’ appointments to transportation issues and a student’s lack of desire,” Toussaint said. “Excused or unexcused, all absences represent lost time in the classroom.”

She said research shows chronic absenteeism in kindergarten and even in preschool, predict lower test scores, poor attendance, and retention in later years.

“Positively impacting attendance rates will be an ongoing campaign for us. We hope to educate and engage families on the topic through outreach,” Toussaint said.

Part of that outreach has been establishing the Infinite Campus Parent Portal, which allows parents access to their child’s attendance, schedule and grades. The district is working with parents to identify what barriers there are (transportation, illness, bullying) that is preventing their child from having good attendance.

“Families and the schools must be partners in this work,” Toussaint said. “Understanding that there are very real and direct links between poor attendance and poor outcomes and lack of success can be shocking.”

Every school in Mapleton has an award system set up to celebrate good attendance — those range from pizza parties, field trips and special lunches with the school’s director.

In the state of Colorado, parents can be fined or even serve jail time if their child’s truancy issue is severe enough.

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