Student attendance numbers climb after drop offTodd Shields, Contact Reporter (Pioneer Press) Chicago Tribune
Barrington High School science teacher Sara Calhoun talks to her class during the first day of classes Aug. 22, 2016. Districtwide, the district saw its attendance numbers climb in 2016 after a drop off the following year. (Brian O'Mahoney / Pioneer Press)
After a dip in districtwide attendance figures that put Barrington School District 220 below the state average, school officials turned to a new software program to better track absences.
From 2011 to 2014, student attendance throughout the district held steady between 95 and 96 percent, slightly above the state average of 94 percent. But District 220 attendance in 2015 dropped to 93 percent, one percentage point below the state average, according to figures from the Illinois Report Card, a website maintained by the Illinois State Board of Education.
After the drop off in attendance from 2014 to 2015, Barrington school officials started noticing attendance inconsistencies with how the district schools acknowledged excused and unexcused student absences, said District 220 spokeswoman Morgan Delack.
They began using a software program called Attention2Attendance that better tracks student absences, while the district will use the information to meet with parents who have students with repeat attendance issues, she said.
"There were a lot of discrepancies" Delack said in an email. "Since the implementation of Attention2Attendance, we have moved away from that and focused more on absent or present."
In 2016, average attendance at district schools climbed back up to 95 and 96 percent, except at Barrington High School where the attendance rate was 93.6 percent, according to the district. High student attendance not only sets up students for success in the classroom, but it also prepares them to compete in the workplace, said District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris.
The Barrington school district has put an emphasis on student attendance throughout September for national "Attendance Awareness Month." District 220 is one of many in Lake County competing in the 27th annual Fall Attendance Competition hosted by the Lake County Regional Office of Education.
The office organizes the competition to stress the importance of student attendance, said Roycealee Wood, regional superintendent of Lake County schools.
"Children should be taught in school and it should be emphasized that they need to be in school," Wood said. "Employers realize if they have applications of people with good attendance, then they might take a closer look at those people."
For the competition, the winning schools that have recorded the best attendance figures during the week of Sept. 12 receive a certificate from the regional office. The competition drew entries from 145 schools in Lake County, according to the office.
Contest winners will be announced Oct. 30.
In the Barrington area, solid attendance records can help prepare students for life in and outside of school, Harris said.
"In our middle schools and high school, employers and the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce say they really want workers who show up," he said. "I hear this all the time from CEOs."