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Report: Absences create more dropout risks

A higher percentage of students in the Lincoln County School District are more at risk of falling behind or dropping out of school than the statewide average of chronic absenteeism, reports show.

The chronic absenteeism rate for the 2018-2019 school year statewide was 16.9 percent, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Education.

In the Lincoln County district, 21.4 percent of students were chronically absent, higher the state average.

In the Brookhaven School District, 15.7 percent of students were chronically absent, about a percent less than the state average.

Education officials consider a student who misses 10 percent or more of their school days — even  two days a month, and for any reason — chronically absent.  Chronic absenteeism reports include any student who misses 50 percent or more of a school day. 

Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Mickey Myers said he’s disappointed at the high rate of chronic absenteeism.

“We’ve got to keep stressing to the parents the importance of school,” Myers said. “There’s a direct correlation between attendance and achievement.”

Myers said some schools are offering incentives, such as a chance to win prizes for perfect attendance each month.

“We’ve got to become creative in what we do, but our parents have to understand we are preparing their children for their future, where attendance and punctuality are expected,” Myers said.

There’s also financial consequences when students skip school, he said. School funding from the state is based on average daily attendance.

Research shows there’s many reasons for parents to keep their children in school every day if at all possible, according to Attendance Works, a state and nationwide incentive program. Missing 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days in most school districts, can negatively affect a student’s academic performance.

Here are some findings from an Attendance Works report:

• Being absent in the first month of school can predict poor attendance throughout the school year. Half the students who miss 2-4 days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school.

• One in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent.

• Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade or be held back.

• By sixth grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.

• Students who live in communities with high levels of poverty are four times more likely to be chronically absent than others often for reasons beyond their control, such as unstable housing, unreliable transportation and a lack of access to health care.

Goals of Attendance Works are to improve policies and school attendance. The program aims to involve parents, students and mentors, aiming to improve chances of graduation and a solid foundation for the future of students.

The Lincoln County and Brookhaven school districts both have school attendance officers.

The MDE’s Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement has issued a reminder that children who are age 6 or not yet 17 by Sept. 1 must be registered for school, or the parent or guardian will face penalties.

Children who are 5 years old by Sept. 1 are eligible for kindergarten in the public schools.

Parents who plan to home-school their children must complete a certificate of enrollment and give it to the school attendance officer for their school district by Sept. 15.

Failure to comply with the school attendance law is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, jail or both.

The Lincoln County School District oversees K-12 classes at Bogue Chitto, Enterprise, Loyd Star and West Lincoln attendance centers.

The Brookhaven School District oversees Mamie Martin Elementary, Brookhaven Elementary, Lipsey Middle School, Alexander Jr. High, Brookhaven High, Brookhaven Technical Center and Fannie Mullins Alternative School.


Story by Robin Eyman