Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is gearing up for Attendance Awareness Month by asking superintendents to tackle chronic absence. The WVDE Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and Attendance Awareness have issued the Make Every Day Count Call to Action. It urges superintendents to make attendance a top priority starting in the early grades, mobilize the community around reducing chronic absence and drive with data to identify students and schools in need of extra support.
“Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective but often overlooked strategy for ensuring our students are on-track to learn and succeed,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Charles K. Heinlein. “Nationwide, as many as one out of 10 students is chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of school days, or nearly a month. The good news is that chronic absence is a problem we can solve.”
Two West Virginia counties have already accepted the challenge. Logan County Schools have planned an extensive public relations campaign and have invited America’s Got Talent winner, Landau Murphy, Jr., to support the efforts. He will be conducting interviews, creating billboards and recording public service announcements that will be used throughout the campaign. Cathy Adkins, Logan County attendance, announced that there are two events scheduled that will feature signing proclamations declaring September as Attendance Awareness Month by city mayors. On September 8th, an event will be held at Chapmanville Town Hall at 7:00 p.m. during which Mayor Jerry Price Jr. will sign a proclamation. Another event will be held on September 9th beginning at 5:00 p.m. that will include the dedication of a banner supporting school attendance and the signing of the proclamation by Mayor Serafino Nolletti at Logan City Hall at 6:00 p.m. Schools in the district will be highlighting the importance of daily attendance by participating in an art contest to illustrate the county’s slogan, “Every Student, Every Day.”
United Way of River Cities is supporting Cabell County schools. The United Way is mobilizing a community coalition by hosting a Community Back-to-School Open House event in September. Members of the community are submitting columns to the Herald Dispatch that will discuss how to make attendance a priority from the perspectives of a parent, teacher and community member. On September 4th, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will be issuing a proclamation at 11:30 a.m. at Huntington City Hall regarding Cabell County’s commitment to Attendance Awareness Month. Public service announcements will run for the duration of the month, and social media will encourage submissions to Twitter using #SchoolEveryDay.
Chronic absence is a leading, early warning indicator of academic trouble and later dropout. While addressing some attendance barriers—such as health, poor transportation, and unstable housing—can often require longer-term strategies, everyone can make a difference by helping students and families understand that going to school every day and avoiding absences whenever possible is critical to realizing their hopes and dreams.
“All of us can make a difference by helping students and families feel engaged in learning and their schools, setting the expectation that school attendance matters and working together to identify and help families overcome barriers to getting to school,” added Heinlein. “Community partners are especially important for helping schools and families address and overcome tough barriers, such as limited access to health care, unstable housing, poor transportation or neighborhood violence.”
Some strategies to get involved in the campaign at the county level include:
Attendance Awareness Month in a national campaign sponsored by Attendance Works - Advancing Student Success By Reducing Chronic Absence.
For more information about Attendance Awareness Month or the West Virginia Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, contact Charlotte Webb, WVDE’s Office of Early Learning, 304-558-9994.