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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 2, 2022

Stay Connected, Keep Learning: A Message from Supt. Elder

In his weekly message to employees, APS Superintendent Scott Elder writes about helping students and families overcome attendance barriers.

Connecting with students and staff at Mission Avenue STEM Magnet Elementary School.

Connecting with students and staff at Mission Avenue STEM Magnet Elementary School.

The national 2022 Attendance Awareness Campaign theme is "Stay Connected, Keep Learning!" I like the theme, especially since Albuquerque Public Schools is committed to strengthening connections between our students and their school communities.

As I mentioned last week, our students make cognitive, emotional, physical, and social connections every day in the classroom. It goes without saying that if students aren't in school, those bonds weaken. No matter the reason for an absence—excused or unexcused—a missed school day is missed learning. It's also a day without school supports. And it sets students back.

The APS Attendance Supports Unit —a bountiful resource on school attendance (contact them if you need information or assistance)—has a chart showing the impact of missed days over 13 years of school, from kindergarten to 12th grade:

  • A student who misses two days a month (20 days a year) loses one and a half years of their education.
  • A student who misses one day a week (40 days a year) loses more than two and a half years.
  • And a student who misses two days a week (80 days a year) loses a whopping five years of school!
  • Can you imagine missing 20, 40, 80 days of work a year? You'd fall behind, have trouble catching up, couldn't do your job well, and possibly get fired or quit.

Yet, some of our students miss an average of two days of school a week, losing five years of their education!

That's unacceptable, which is why we all need to make a conscientious effort to get kids to school regularly, no matter what it takes.

We first need to keep track of who is absent by taking attendance every day, every period, with fidelity. I know how easy it is to get distracted. Believe me. I've been there. But the data helps target at-risk students, so we can promptly address issues keeping them from school.

There are countless reasons why students miss school, though they usually fall into four buckets:

  • They are sick.
  • They don't want to go to school. Reasons may include not feeling safe, not having friends, or not doing well.
  • They or their families don't understand the impact of missing school.
  • They face poverty issues like housing insecurity.

Fortunately, we have resources available to help students and families in all of these cases. The earlier we identify the problem —or problems, as is often the case—the sooner we can get students back in school, learning where they belong.

Beginning the week of Sept. 9, the district will send letters to families of students who have missed more than 5 percent of school days so far this year. The letters are meant to be proactive, providing tips that may help families and encouraging them to reach out to the school to help get their children back on track.

But we don't need to wait until a letter is sent to help encourage students to show up every day. No matter your role in the district, you help create a nurturing educational environment through your actions, words, and attitude. Let's make our students and families feel welcome, wanted, and safe. Whether you're a teacher or custodian, counselor or police officer, you can provide support, seek help for those in need, and keep your eyes and ears open for potential issues that may keep students from attending school regularly.

We are co-hosting a couple of one-day conferences on school attendance for school teams later this month. I encourage schools to send team members who will get support and information for developing strategies to help students and families. Reach out to the Attendance Supports Unit for details.

Let's continue building strong connections to help students and families overcome barriers to getting to school.