Attendance is vital to educational succcess – Cranston Herald

Posted: January 9, 2020 at 6:46 am


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By JEANNINE NOTA-MASSE

Happy New Year to all and welcome back to school! I hope you all enjoyed the winter break and youre ready to take on the next portion of the school year here in Cranston.

We are now in the final stretch of the first semester for our high school students. We are into the second trimester for our elementary school students and nearing the end of the second quarter for our middle school students. Its hard to believe that so much of the school year is already behind us! February will mark the halfway point of the school year.

These next few months ahead, like those before them, are a crucial part of our students educational journeys. Every single day, every single instructional minute, counts.

In the spring we will begin taking our standardized tests. Our secondary students will be taking the SAT, ACT and AP (Advanced Placement) tests, our younger students will be taking RICAS and several of our grade levels will be taking the NGSA science assessments. Many of our high school students have already taken the PSAT tests and some may take them again.

Those types of standardized tests are just one assessment tool that we use when examining our student data to measure what our students have mastered and where we need to place extra effort in our instructional methods going forward. They assess what our students have learned during their instructional time in class from their designated teachers, while at school. Although those types of tests are well known and many look to them as an indicator of student and district achievement, our students are being assessed daily when they are present in class.

Educators look to see who understands a concept which has just been taught by a show of hands, an answer written on a white board, an exit ticket or even by a small group or one-on-one discussion with the teacher. These assessments are given in addition to more formal tests and quizzes. Teachers use this feedback to adjust instruction and pacing.

These types of anecdotal assessments cant be done when a student is not in class, and the more a student misses, the harder it is for them to catch up. If a teacher sees that a student or group of students needs extra help with a concept, they can re-teach that concept or provide resources and activities for reinforcement. Those who are not present in class every day miss all of those opportunities.

Unfortunately, chronic absenteeism is a problem in our schools here in Cranston and nationwide. During the winter months, we often see spikes in rates of absenteeism. Sometimes this is due to bad weather, sometimes its due to student or teacher illness, or sometimes its even due to the illness of a family member responsible for getting students to school. Other times, its due to the decision to pull students out of school for several days for a family vacation during non-designated school breaks.

I cannot stress to you enough the importance of everyone being at school every day when they are well, every day that school is in session.

Its a common misconception that absences do not impact students at the elementary level, or that doing work while on vacation is the same as being present for instruction in a classroom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Absenteeism impacts every student at every grade level. Nothing can take the place of being in the classroom for instruction and authentic classroom learning activities, and nothing can replace the physical presence of a classroom teacher being present to facilitate the learning.

In fact, recent data shows that children who miss too much school in kindergarten are less likely to read well by the third grade. By middle school, absenteeism can predict who will graduate from high school. Absences, even if they are excused, can add up to academic trouble. This is as true in kindergarten as it is in high school. Additionally, although our district does have a policy for excusing absences see the student handbook found on our district website for details our state does not excuse absences. Our Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) accountability ratings depend greatly on everyone, both our educators and our students, being in school when it is in session. When looking at our schools accountability (our star ratings), know that chronic absenteeism plays an important part in determining how RIDE has arrived at our school and district scores.

I encourage you to have a backup plan in place to get your students to school if there is a cancellation or delay due to weather or in case of your own illness. Work with your students to help them understand the extreme importance of being in school each and every day to participate in the instructional activities and assessments taking place there. Let them know that you too, value the importance of this time on learning by keeping your familys vacations in line with our district calendar.

As parents and families ourselves, we can appreciate the budgetary or scheduling issues that traveling during a school vacation week may cause, but we value the extreme impact of time on learning from the teacher in the classroom even more.

Family memories last a lifetime, and so does ones education. Lets all work together as educators, students, and families to be sure that our students have both.

Jeannine Nota-Masse is superintendent of Cranston Public Schools.

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Attendance is vital to educational succcess - Cranston Herald

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