LOU Community observes Attendance Awareness Month

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September is Attendance Awareness Month, and both the Oxford Board of Aldermen and the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors have adopted proclamations endorsing efforts from school districts to commemorate the event.

According to Tamara Hillmer, director of childhood development and reading for LOU Reads, Oxford and Lafayette County school districts are choosing to focus on chronic absenteeism over ADA, or average daily attendance, rates.

“Chronic absenteeism are students who miss on average two days a month, so that comes out to about 18 days a year,” Hillmer said. “Those kids kind of slip under the radar, but they’re ending up missing 10 percent of the school year.”  

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The state rate for chronic absenteeism, according to recent reports was 14.5 percent. The LOU Community falls below that average, Hillmer said, with  OSD at 14.15 percent and LCSD at 12.35 percent.

Chronic absenteeism is often misinterpreted as truancy, according to Attendance Works. However, the two are different. Truancy counts only unexcused absences, emphasizes compliance with school rules and relies on legal and administrative solutions.

Chronic absenteeism, on the other hand, counts all absences, whether excused, unexcused or suspensions. It also emphasizes the academic impact of missed days and uses community-based, positive strategies, Attendance Works said.

The impact of chronic absenteeism in the state is increasing, Hillmer said, especially among two key educational demographics.

“(Absentee rates) are 13 percent in kindergarten. Being an early childhood person, we’ve got to make folks understand that’s an important year,” Hillmer said. “We see that again when they’re close to finishing high school. They’re about to get out of the educational system and we’re seeing them attend less.”

Mississippi’s graduation rate reached its highest point in the 2016-2017 school year, at 83 percent. Compared to the nationwide rate of 84 percent, Hillmer said it’s important to reinforce the benefits of exemplary school attendance.

During a proclamation by the Oxford Board of Aldermen on Sept. 4, Alderman Rick Addy stated that school attendance was essential, not optional.

“School attendance is essential to student achievement and graduation,” Addy said. “We, the City of Oxford, are committed to giving our resources contingent with reducing chronic absenteeism rates.”