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Accelerating Leadership: 3 Ways to Expedite Your Journey

Every school takes attendance seriously—and with good reason. Students can’t possibly succeed if they don’t show up for class.

Educators in Michigan have an added incentive to keep students in schools: funding.

In the first week of October, schools across the state take part in the annual fall “Count Day,” a statewide accounting of student attendance that can determine up to 90 percent of state funding for the following school year.

As reported by 9 and 10 News in Northern Michigan, if schools do not meet predicted attendance goals on Count Day, they could forfeit significant financial resources.

A national issue

Michigan is far from the only state concerned about school attendance. Chronic absenteeism is a national concern, especially as schools report enrollment data this fall.

In the 2013-2014 school year, one in eight students missed 15 days or more of school, according to  a U.S. Department of Education report. The consequences of missed class time are well documented. When students miss multiple days of school, they tend to engage more in risky behavior, fall behind in lessons, and miss out on essential social events and life skills.

Whether you’re fighting a high chronic absentee rate in your schools, or need to get attendance up to secure funding, there are some steps you can take to prevent seeing too many empty seats in your classrooms.

Here are three:

Give students a voice.

Students who feel empowered in school are less likely to disengage from learning.

It’s simple logic: If students don’t feel like they are being listened to, what reason do they have to listen?

Students need to know that they have some control over their learning—and that what they put into school will pay dividends down the road.

Do you ask for student feedback before implementing major learning or strategy changes in your schools? Do you give students a say in what and how they learn?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you’re potentially missing an opportunity to keep your students engaged.

Develop a strategy against bullying.

According to the nonprofit DoSomething.org, 160,000 students miss school each day to avoid being bullied.

Are you doing everything you can to ensure students come to school feeling safe and protected?

Bullying is a problem every school must confront—and conquer.

Get parents involved.

Study after study shows that when parents are involved in their children’s learning, students have a better chance at success.

Parents who did not experience quality education themselves as children or who are too busy to be involved in the day-to-day school life of their child may simply not understand the importance of consistent attendance.

“Parents may not realize that even excused absences can, if they accumulate, cause their children to fall behind and that building the habit of attendance in the early grades can influence their children’s chances of graduating from high school,” says the absence advocacy organization Attendance Works.

Attendance Works has developed a toolkit for schools to better-engage parents and students about chronic absenteeism.

Schools should also host ongoing dialogues and training sessions with parents to help them become more involved in their child’s day-to-day education.

That’s exactly what educators in the Tuscaloosa City Schools in Alabama have attempted to do through the district’s HERE campaign, short for Have Everyone Ready to Educate. The initiative engages students, parents, and community members to make school attendance a community-wide priority. (Read more about this campaign here.)

What steps do you take to ensure students consistently attend school? Tell us in the comments.

For more on how to solve chronic absenteeism, read our post “More kids are missing school. But it’s a problem we can solve.