New attendance tracking system will aid in district efforts to identify and help struggling kids

Jasper Independent School District, Press Release

(Jasper, Texas) Jasper Independent School District officials are taking a closer look at attendance this year in hopes of getting students back on track who, until now, may have fallen through the cracks.

“The habits you form while in school are the habits you’ll have for the rest of your life,” said Superintendent Gerald Hudson. “If students can develop healthy habits like making it to school on time and being prepared for class, and they can keep those habits going, that’s something that’ll propel them in life.”

Research continues to show that students who regularly miss school are far less likely to achieve academically. Children who are chronically absent are less likely to reach proficiency in reading by third grade–a common benchmark for when students stop learning to read and begin reading to learn. And as early as sixth grade, high absence rates have been identified as an indicator that a student will later drop out from high school.

Chronic absenteeism is most commonly defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year–which in a typical 180-day school-year adds up to 18 days.

While Jasper ISD doesn’t have an alarmingly high chronic absence rate like many schools throughout the country, even the occasional absence here and there can make a significant dent in a student’s understanding of a subject.

“It’s really just about having them there, because the first teach is the best teach,” Hudson said, noting that when a teacher starts a lesson, students who are in class receive the most in-depth instruction, with the ability to ask questions and learn from questions asked by peers.

But if a child misses that first lesson and their teacher has to help them catch up on missed work, that lesson won’t have the same richness as a quick review.

According to Hudson, one of the biggest problems in the district is a lack in communication between schools and parents regarding the importance of getting children to school.

Jasper ISD is poised to bridge that gap in communication with its implementation of Attention2Attendance (A2A)–an early warning and intervention system which tracks student attendance and sends letters home to families when their child is trending toward becoming chronically absent.

Often, parents, teachers, and administrators alike get so caught up in focusing on grades that they forget how valuable attendance is, Hudson said, but it’s important not to let students who don’t show up fall through the cracks.

“A2A is like a safety net for those kids because it’ll let us know when they’ve missed three days, when they’ve missed five days, and when we need to have a conference with their family–because a lot of the time parents may not be aware their child is missing school or how much school they’ve missed,” Hudson said. “But if you can get the kids who aren’t coming to school to actually come to school, that’s where you’re going to see the largest gains.”