During the month of September, schools, communities and advocates for children across the nation are making a united effort through Attendance Awareness Month to reduce the 135 million school days students miss each year.

Fellows Principal Carol Page said student attendance is important to keep classrooms on track with their learning goals.

“Each day in the classroom builds on the previous, and chronic absences disrupt the learning process for everyone,” Page said.

Studies show that students who are more often absent beginning as early as first grade are the ones who eventually drop out of school. The pattern of absenteeism often increases throughout a student’s school career. In Ames, our schools focus on building healthy habits of school attendance. We play a major role in how students feel about attending school to create what experts call school connectedness. School connectedness refers students’ perception that adults in the school care about their learning and about them as individuals.

Riley Drake, a School and Family Counselor at Camp Sawyer Elementary School, said all Ames school and family counselors advocate for improved school attendance throughout the year.

“They keep track of students who begin to miss a number of school days, and depending on the situation and their knowledge of and relationship with the student and family, they may use a variety of interventions,” she said.

Some schools use small groups as a way to encourage school attendance by allowing students to motivate one another and celebrate attendance successes, Drake said.

“Counselors teach students skills to manage their time and how to use an alarm clock. They also may connect students with a mentor or collaborate with their teacher to find a way to showcase their strengths during instruction and  increase academic engagement.”

Other interventions include school wide attendance awareness and classroom counseling lessons that help students understand how attendance is related to academic achievement, Drake said.

Drake said, “Above all else, our work with the student centers on creating trusting relationships among the student, teachers, staff, administrators, and families. When the student and family trust in us, we can make school connections to last a lifetime.”