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It is estimated that seven million students (K-12) miss 18 days or more each year, and the concentration of that absenteeism is in middle and high schools. In some states, as many as 1 in 3 high school students are absent on any given day.
Research shows that student achievement suffers after only five absences. Students who miss more than ten days of school are more than 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers and are 25 percent less likely of ever enrolling in any type of college. Those who drop out are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates. Those who do attend college are less likely to be prepared, more likely to enroll in remedial class, and more likely to leave college before earning a degree.
In a recent report from the Get Schooled Foundation, Skipping to Nowhere, more than 500 teens in 25 cities were given in-depth interviews to get an accurate picture of truancy in America. The report found that skipping school is behavior developed by the end of 9th grade. Of current sophomores, juniors and seniors who skip, nearly three quarters of them started skipping in middle school or during their first year of high school. Class cutting transcends socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds.
The interviews revealed that most students face few or minor immediate consequences for skipping school, and many do not think missing class impacts their grades, their chances of graduating, or whether they’ll attend college. According to the report, more than 80 percent of students who skip school once a week believe it is unlikely they will fall behind in class. Nearly half of skippers are absent at least part of the day about once a week or more and 42 percent of students said their parents “never” or “rarely” know when they skip school. Young people are often unaware that skipping even a few days of school can dramatically affect their grades and even decrease their odds of graduating.
The Get Schooled Foundation’s report supports past research that shows a direct link between family engagement and student achievement. Parents are the most important defense against absenteeism. Following are some tips on how parents can prevent their child from cutting class:
Be involved with your teen’s school. Attend Parent’s Night and other school functions. Volunteer within the school. Get to know your teen’s teachers. Be aware of your child’s grades and attendance record. The more involved you are in your teen’s school the more likely your teen will perceive education as important and the less likely they are to skip class.
Encourage open communication. Allow your teen to vent about a teacher, a certain class, etc. without providing any judgment. Everyone needs to feel heard and understood. If you believe your child is facing a challenge at school, talk to their teacher.
Explain the importance of attendance. Give your child a vision for their future and then explain how skipping school impacts that vision. Tell them some of the statistics from this report and explain that skipping school significantly changes their ability to have a bright future.
Live in the real world. Students surveyed expressed a desire for a connection between their ‘real lives’ and what they learn in school. Too often there is a complete disconnect between their lives outside of school, their dreams and hopes for the future and how they spend each day. Draw the lines for them so they can see the usefulness of what they are learning.
Repeat the message. When the message to avoid skipping only comes from the school principal, it’s not as effective. Having the message about the importance of attending school come from several sources – parents, teachers, neighbors, the local truancy officer, police, celebrities, athletes, etc. – can have a dramatically stronger effect on student decision-making.
Establish consequences for truancy. Tell your teen that skipping school is not acceptable in your family and provide a consequence if you discover they have skipped. Parents should also inform their teens of their local area’s laws for truancy.
According to the US Department of Education, skipping school is one of the first signs of trouble in a young person’s life. When young people start skipping school, they are telling their parents and teachers that they are in trouble or are giving up. Students are truant for different reasons. Yes, some just would rather hang out with their friends than go to school, but others may skip a day of school because they were concerned for their personal safety or did not want to take a test for which they were unprepared. It’s important to find out the reason they are skipping and address it directly. If they are bored, show them the correlation between what they learn and what they want to do in the future. If they are avoiding a test, determine the reason and help them with their studying or provide a tutor. If they are scared for their safety, work with the school to stop bullying. Do not ignore their cry for help… skipping school or cutting class means there is a problem to solve in your teen’s life.
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