Skip To Main Content

The importance of regular attendance

A boy greets another boy after getting off the school bus

School Attendance is Important for Success

This column by JP Jacobson, Director of Teaching and Learning, appeared in the September 28 edition of the Forest Lake Times

Ask anyone whose jaw has dropped at the sight of the Grand Canyon, or who has stood in line for hours to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, there’s just no substitute for being there in person. It’s the same with learning in school. Students who regularly attend and participate in classes, have better academic outcomes than those who don’t. 

During my time as a teacher, principal, and now as a director I have seen firsthand how being present at school can improve a student’s experience and how much they learn. However, recent trends both nationally and locally unfortunately show that school attendance is an area that needs our attention as parents and educators. Statewide, the percentage of students who attend class regularly (defined as attending school 90% of the time) has dropped from 85% prior to the pandemic to under 70% last year. The trend of staying home has not fully shaken free in the minds of students and getting back to the healthy habits of coming to school has been an uphill climb.

Research shows that regular attendance at school truly matters. National studies show that a middle schooler who misses two or fewer days each year has a 93% chance of starting high school on track to graduate versus 66% for a child who misses 10 or more days. Even with advancements in technology that allow students to see what they are missing when at home there is still a gap between what they can glean from online materials and what they would absorb in the classroom. 

Families and systems that push for consistent attendance at school create habits that continue into adulthood and the workplace. In the present, making school attendance a priority has far-reaching benefits for a student’s development.

  • Academic Achievement: Attending school regularly allows your child to fully participate in classroom activities, engage with teachers and peers, and stay up to date with their learning. This active involvement contributes significantly to their academic progress and helps them reach their full potential.

  • Skill Development: Beyond academic learning, school is a place where children develop critical life skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, and time management. These are skills that are also highly valued in the workplace.

  • Social and Emotional Well-being: Regular school attendance helps children build strong relationships with peers and teachers, fostering a sense of belonging. It also provides a structured environment that can reduce feelings of isolation or disconnection.

Here are some ways that parents can help their children build strong attendance habits.

  • Talk to your child about school. If they are experiencing hurdles, ask how you can help and coach them through solutions that promote coming to school.

  • Insist that your teenager or child goes to school every day.

  • Make sure your child understands and has completed their homework. Uncompleted homework may prevent them from wanting to come to school.

  • Discuss concerns you might have with your child’s teachers, counselors, deans, or administrators. They are there to help.

Naturally, there are times when it is best to stay home, like in the case of illness or other health-related situations. For healthy students, attendance is important and we appreciate parents’ support and partnership in helping to keep students in school. Together, we hope to truly make a difference for our students in helping them feel healthy and happy today and prepare them for success in their future.