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City Proclaims September ‘Student Attendance Awareness Month’

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City Proclaims September ‘Student Attendance Awareness Month’
Posted on 09/08/2016
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The importance of school attendance was a focus this week at both the Portland City Council and Portland Board of Public Education meetings.

At the council’s meeting Sept. 7, Mayor Ethan Strimling proclaimed September as School Attendance Awareness Month. The proclamation begins, “Good attendance is essential to student achievement and graduation, and we are committed to dedicating our resources and attention to reducing chronic absenteeism rates, with a focus starting as early as prekindergarten and kindergarten.”

Also, at the school board meeting on Sept. 6, Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana stressed the importance of school attendance to the board and the public. “I’m making improved attendance and reduced chronic absence a priority in our district this year. Good attendance is essential to academic success and far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent,” Botana said.

He explained that chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year – or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. Research shows chronic absenteeism negatively affects student performance. Students can fall behind academically when they miss just two or three days per month, because those absences can quickly add up to missing a significant percentage of the school year.

Botana noted that schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others around the nation are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, map local attendance gaps and work with community partners to improve school attendance by focusing on reducing chronic absenteeism, starting as soon as children enter school. The Portland Public Schools partners with “Count ME In,” a Maine consortium of schools, youth, families, and the community, in this effort.

“As part of this effort, the City of Portland and the Portland Public Schools, by proclamation, recognize the month of September as School Attendance Awareness Month,” Botana said.

During School Attendance Awareness Month, he said, “we are asking school leaders, community advocates, parents and students to act upon three critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism.” He said those steps are: building a habit and a culture of regular attendance; using data to determine when and with whom chronic absence is a problem; and identifying and addressing barriers to getting children to school. “Let’s all work together to help increase student attendance and academic achievement,” Botana urged.