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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 11, 2020

Attendance Awareness

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder discusses the importance of student attendance and engagement.

I had the opportunity to "sit in" on a few classes recently. Admittedly, it was a little jarring at first – all those young faces on a Brady Bunch computer screen, the usual classroom chatter muted and replaced by nodding heads and raised thumbs.

But I quickly adjusted to the remote setting and was impressed by the quality of teaching and learning I observed – characteristic of the hard work I know is occurring every day across the district. I want to thank our teachers and staff for doing the heavy lifting to make this happen.  

As the teachers and staff of Albuquerque Public Schools know all too well, the key to this quality education is student presence. Attendance matters, as much now as ever, and we all play a role in ensuring children go to school regularly.

September is Attendance Awareness Month, and while the way we're taking roll these days may be different, the themes of this annual campaign still apply:

  • Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow
  • Every Student, Every Day
  • Every Day Matters
  • And this year's theme: Present, Engaged & Supported

I appreciate all of you who have come up with creative strategies to ensure student engagement and participation, and I thank you for your efforts to monitor attendance and check up on students who are struggling to make it to class every day.

Taking attendance, especially during remote learning, helps us identify students who need extra support. Consistent, predictable routines for learning provide students with a sense of stability, which many lost when school buildings closed last spring.

Taking attendance helps us identify student needs, so we can provide them with appropriate resources and interventions to support their learning. We know that chronic absenteeism may set students back in school and, sadly too often, in life. Starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, lots of absences predict lower third-grade reading scores. By middle school, it's a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school.

Taking attendance helps us build trusting and caring relationships not only with our students but with their families, too. Strong relationships motivate students to attend school even when it isn't easy, like during distance learning. And establishing ongoing communication with families, welcoming them as partners, helps ensure that students are supported on and offline. 

Taking attendance ensures all students have equitable access to education. Chronic absenteeism disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in schools. This is especially true during remote learning when too many of our families are struggling with technology, connectivity, work and home conflicts, mental health issues, and a whole host of demands that make logging on and being present even more of a challenge. 

Taking attendance isn't meant to be punitive. Our focus is on strengthening and building relationships. When we call, email, and text about an absence, what we're really doing is reaching out to make sure students are getting the support they need to engage in their learning.  

We can all support this effort by helping the children and families in our lives better understand the value of education in all its forms. We can direct them to resources when they are in need and do what we can to relieve their burden, so our students can be present to learn, not just during Attendance Awareness Month, but throughout the year.

Keep up the effort and don't be afraid to ask for help or offer encouragement to those who might need it. Remember, we're all in this together.