Preschool is the ideal time to introduce children and families to the importance of consistent on-time school attendance and to encourage strong attendance habits. An often-overlooked element of supporting a smooth transition to kindergarten is helping families learn about the critical importance of excellent attendance and overcome challenges to getting to preschool or school.
Regular attendance is essential to academic achievement and graduation. This puts children on track to become proficient readers by the end of third grade, decreases their likelihood of being retained, and supports the development of social-emotional skills needed for success.
In the 2021-2022 school year, more than 25 percent of students in North Carolina public and charter elementary schools were chronically absent. Children, particularly those with multiple risk factors, benefit from regular attendance in child care, where they establish good attendance and learning habits. The NC Department of Public Instruction reports that, at the end of the 2020-21 school year, the average North Carolina fourth grader needed seven months of additional school time to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Early chronic absenteeism is associated with lower academic achievement, truancy in middle school, school dropout, delinquency, and substance abuse. The educational experience of all children is impacted when teachers must divert their attention to meet the needs of chronically absent children when they are in school.
Consistent school attendance in the early grades helps boost children’s academic learning, achievement, and motivation. The impact of absenteeism and biased approaches to school discipline expands the achievement gap separating low-income communities and students of color from their peers, particularly if they lack resources to make up for lost learning time and face systemic barriers to showing up, which have been further exacerbated by economic and health impacts of COVID-19.
NCECF Prioritizes Attendance for Learning Success
Two of our initiatives – Pathways to Grade-Level Reading and the NC Campaign Grade-Level Reading – prioritize the importance of regular school attendance for student success.
The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework provides North Carolina with a path forward on the areas Pathways stakeholders identified for action first—children’s social-emotional health, high quality early care and education, and regular school attendance.
Since 2015, the NC Early Childhood Foundation has served as the state lead for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in North Carolina. The national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has mobilized 300 communities across the country to ensure that more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. It is a collaborative effort by foundations, non-profit organizations, business leaders and government agencies supporting children’s school readiness, summer learning and regular school attendance.
North Carolina’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has a vision where diverse and inclusive communities grow thriving readers, beginning at birth and continuing through third grade, so each child is prepared for success. Thirteen community collaboratives, including Read to Grow in Johnston County, are currently participating in the NC Campaign. Read to Grow consists of a wide variety of community members including business leaders, faith community members, families, Partnership for Children of Johnston County, My Kids Club, Johnston County Public Schools and their Board of Education.
Local NC Campaign Community Offers Guidance to Support Attendance
Read to Grow is celebrating Attendance Awareness Month with its annual poster contest for elementary school students and open houses in schools to hear from parents about challenges to regular school attendance in their family. Read to Grow is also requesting the Johnston County Board of Commissioners and the Johnston County Public School Superintendent to sign the Proclamation to declare September as Attendance Awareness Month.
Here are some suggestions, which community organizations can utilize to support regular school attendance:
- Engage students, families, educators, civic and elected leaders, local businesses, clergy members and nonprofit organizations to work together to identify and remove barriers to getting to school, and develop meaningful solutions that ensure all children and youth keep learning despite today’s many challenges,
- Raise public awareness about the importance of showing up and engaging in school, and discuss with students and families what is needed to make showing up to school meaningful, and
- Work with schools and districts and use an expanded set of data to monitor outcomes for different groups of students, establish goals, allocate resources, track progress, and assure accountability for an equal opportunity to learn.
Our team has also put together a sample proclamation and sample social media, thanks to support from our national partners at Attendance Works, to support advocates, leaders, and community organizations in spreading awareness of the importance of attendance.
Keep in Touch with NCEF and Support Our Work
We’d love to hear your ideas on how to continue to utilize these resources to support the success of all children across North Carolina. Celebrate the fun and success of every day learning with us at NCECF both this summer and all year round!
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The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.