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Unexcused absences impact drop out rates

With school officially underway for the year, now is a good time to be reminded about the state’s compulsory attendance law.

In a nutshell, it says this: students must be in school somewhere, whether that’s at a public school, private school or a homeschool.

If they are not, parents are held responsible. If a student misses more than 12 days without an excuse, parents or guardians can be summoned to youth court. They can face fines or even jail time if found guilty of contributing to the neglect of a child.

It may not sound like a big deal for a student to rack up unexcused absences, but the school year is designed to provide enough classroom time for an average student to promote to the next grade. Missing valuable class time puts that child behind and at risk of not getting enough instructional time to make it to the next grade.

“Students who miss instructional time get behind in reading and math and over time they perform lower and lower below grade level. There is no magic trick to catch up. It takes the same amount of time that was missed to catch up,” Brookhaven Schools Superintendent Ray Carlock said. “Below grade level students can struggle with reading and become at risk for dropping out. Drop outs lower the graduation rate which lowers accountability scores.”

Schools also receive funding based on average daily attendance, meaning absences cost the school money.

Keep those things in mind if you are responsible for making sure a child is in school. School attendance is serious business.