Arlington works hard to get kids to school

  • Sunday, December 4, 2016 1:30am
  • Opinion

Did you know that a student is chronically absent if he/she misses as few as two days of school a month?

Did you know that Washington state has the highest chronic absenteeism in the country?

Did you know that Arlington Public Schools had nearly 15 percent absenteeism for the 2015-16 school year?

These are staggering figures and Arlington Public Schools is not taking them lightly. With the passage of Senate Bill 2449, school districts are now directly addressing this critical issue.

The bill addresses court-based and school-based intervention and prevention efforts to promote attendance and reduce truancy in schools. The research is clear. If students are not in school, they cannot learn and are at greater risk of academic challenges.

Our schools are informing families about absenteeism and truancy and the importance of regular school attendance. Several of our schools have put programs in place that encourage students to track their attendance.

Activities, lessons and incentives are being utilized to get the message across, such as the “Strive for Five Program” which helps students to attend school.

In addition to the efforts to inform and educate students and families on the benefits of regular school attendance, school district are required to put truancy boards in place by the fall of 2017. These district truancy boards are an opportunity to bring families, students, district and community members together to discuss and problem-solve around the barriers to school attendance.

These meetings will allow for positive plans to be put in place for individuals who struggle with attendance in an effort to increase their daily participation at school.

Attendance is an issue that affects the entire community. In 1995, the Washington state legislature passed a bill to address school attendance and truancy. The “Becca Bill” was passed following the murder of Rebecca Hedman, a 13-year-old runaway in Spokane.

We believe chronic absenteeism can be solved, and we need everyone “on board” to successfully address this issue. Our goal is for students to be attending school in order to learn. We need every student attending every day.

Kathy Ehman is the assistant superintendent of Arlington Public Schools.

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