Good attendance campaign greets students countywide

Grants Pass SD & Three Rivers SD, Press Release

Posted September 2017

(Grants Pass, Ore.) Looking to improve graduation rates and overall student performance, both of Josephine County’s two K-12 school districts are launching a new attendance campaign this fall.

Like many districts in Oregon, the Grants Pass School District and the Three Rivers School District have rates of chronic absenteeism that are above the state average. Administrators in both districts are well-aware the first step to graduating more students and increasing test scores is getting kids to class more often.

“Attendance is key to academic success,” said Casey Alderson, director of Secondary and Alternative Education at Three Rivers SD. “We need to make sure that parents and students value good attendance and see the academic benefits of attending class regularly.

Susan Zottola, director of Elementary Education at Grants Pass SD, agreed. “Coming to school is like going to work, it’s a good professional habit,” she said. “We need families’ help and the community’s help to make sure that students actually attend.”

Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year, has emerged as a major challenge for many districts statewide, and prompted Oregon lawmakers to provide additional funding and support.

The new effort being implemented by Three Rivers and Grants Pass District 7 will employ a software system that can flag students on the verge of becoming chronically absent so that school officials and parents have an opportunity to intervene. The program also automates communications with the families and frees up district personnel for the more complex job of investigating the attendance barriers individual students face.

Last year, the chronically absent rate at Grants Pass was close to 20 percent; at Three Rivers it was close to 30 percent.

“We have a problem with attendance,” said Zottola. “If we didn’t we wouldn’t be seeking these solutions.”

An important aspect of the new campaign is outreach to parents as well as community stakeholders. Both districts are confronting perceptions that missing school is harmless.

A growing body of research clearly links attendance habits–especially among early learners–with a student’s success or failure not just with their academic career, but in the work place as well.

Alderson and Zottola both said that the attendance campaign is not intended to be punitive. The goal is to work with families on the problems they face getting their children to school.

“We need the support of parents and the communities’ support in getting our kids to attend regularly. Students that attend regularly are far more likely to be academically successful and graduate on time.” said Alderson.