John S. Armstrong Elementary School
Highland Park Independent School District
Dr. Skip Moran, Principal
3600 Cornell Avenue · Dallas, Texas 75205-2819
Phone (214) 780-3100 · Fax (214) 780-3199
Monday, September 24, 2012
Daily attendance at school is important for all students for many reasons. We count on parents as partners with us in reinforcing this message in direct and indirect ways.
- Each day, teachers have planned engaging and meaningful work tied to important learning goals for students. Students who miss school miss out on this work and miss out on this learning. Most of our learning these days does not take place from reading a textbook, answering the questions at the back of the chapter, or completing a worksheet. The learning occurs through a hands-on activity, demonstration, modeling, or discussion between teacher and students or collaborative project with students that can not be replicated in the same way for students who miss the experience. We do try to make up learning for students who miss class, but the experience is different, and I believe it is lacking something when it is done in isolation as a make-up activity.
Often I hear the question, "what time do I have to be here so that I am not absent?" I think this is asking the question from the wrong angle. I am more concerned about how much learning is missed when the student is not in class. A 4th grader who comes at 9:00, has already missed nearly an hour of writing instruction, or most of the targeted writing instruction that will occur for that day. A 3rd grader who leaves just 45 minutes early a few times a week has missed almost all the targeted social studies and science instruction that is planned. Attendance all day is important.
- Tardies become a bad habit that is hard to break. As important as being at school and being on time is during the elementary years, our teachers do commit to working with students and families to ensure that students are caught up with the most important work and make adequate progress. The gaps caused by absences and tardies will become more and more difficult to overcome as students move into middle school and high school and their attendance by course, not just daily attendance, is accounted. You are building an important habit now by teaching your student to be at school on time, with all materials, prepared to learn.
- The state of Texas requires students to attend class 90% of the days that school is offered in order to be eligible for promotion to the next grade level based on academic performance. That means that even if students have achieved academic mastery of the learning goals, their poor attendance record can result in retention in grade level. This standard continues from elementary to middle to high school, where students can lose course credit and risk their graduation plan simply due to their number of absences. In the case that a student does exceed 10% absences (usually 18 days), an attendance appeals committee is convened is hear the student's appeal for grade promotion or course credit. Due to the potentially severe consequences of these circumstances, we typically send warning letters to families when students reach 10 and 15 absences. In addition, we will send a warning letter with a request for a conference when a student has reached 10 tardies. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances where serious illnesses or other events lead to a series of absences that can not be avoided. This is the reason for the appeals process, but should be used rarely.
- At the same time that we want to emphasize the importance of regular attendance, we also want to stress the guidelines of our school nurse related to promoting the health of our students and school. When students are sick or need to go to doctor's appointments that can not be scheduled outside the school day, these are legitimate reasons for school absences. Students with a fever, nausea, or an acute cold should stay home to rest. This is the best chance that they will be able to return to school healthy more quickly, and prevent the possible spread of infection.
Thank you for helping us communicate the importance of school attendance to your students.