School District Approves New Attendance Policy; It Intends To Raise Graduation Rates
Film director Woody Allen is credited with saying, "Showing up is 80 percent of life."
The Natrona County School District wants students and parents to know that showing up for class means even more for success in learning and graduation.
For years, the district's graduation rate has lagged behind the state's graduation rate.
The district's board of trustees on Monday approved on second reading an attendance policy that holds students to the same standards as adults:
"Absence from class, whether it is elementary, middle or high school, has a substantial negative effect on academic performance, and is the single biggest predictor of a student's on-time graduation.
"As adults, we are expected to be in attendance and on time at our jobs or other important commitments. A prepared graduate will learn this as part of being a responsible citizen."
Trustee Dana Howie worked with the committee that crafted the policy.
"What brought it about was, lack of attendance means lack of graduates," Howie said after the meeting.
"We've been working really hard to try and figure out a way to keep kids in school, but also let them know we're serious that attendance is a big deal," she said. "We want parents to know they have a say, but we want parents to think attendance is important as well."
The district's graduation rate has been consistently lower than the state graduation rate since the 2007-2008 academic year, according to the Strategic Plan Quarterly Report for January through March that was released Monday.
There has been progress, though. The district's graduation rate was 76.5 percent for the 2014-2015 academic year, up from 71.3 percent in the 2010-2011 academic year, according to the Strategic Plan.
The district intends to raise its graduation rate to 85 percent by 2019.
The district will compile statistics as the policy is implemented to track its progress, Howie said.
It's more than numbers and percentages, though, she said. "What we're hoping is that maybe it will be reflected in more graduates, but we also want prepared graduates, too."
That will require some tough love.
- At the high school level, the new policy states five parent-excused absences -- vacations, emergencies, bereavements, illnesses not requiring professional health care -- will be allowed for any one class. There are some exceptions.
- But after five unexcused absences, the student will be considered habitually truant and the school principal will notify the student and parents and conduct a mandatory intervention.
- If conditions set down at the intervention are not met, and another three unexcused absences occur, the student will lose credit.
This isn't just a school district matter, either, Howie said.
"One of the biggest things we're going to do is start communicating more with the public about the importance of attendance, and why the kids need to be there and why the parents need to support that the kids need to be there," she said.