Today (10/4) is Count Day. For school districts in Michigan, it’s crucially important to have as many enrolled kids sitting in their seats as possible. That’s because this is one of the two days during the school year when attendance determines how much state aid schools will get.
There’s much work to do in boosting attendance, not just on Count Day. A recent report from Johns Hopkins University finds Michigan's chronic student absence rate of 18-percent is well above the national average of 13-percent.
“Chronically absent” means a student misses 15 days of school a year for any reason. Chronic absenteeism is linked with lower school performance and higher drop-out rates.
Grand Rapids Public Schools is one district that has successfully tackled chronic absenteeism.
The school system focused on five major goals: district leadership, community partnerships, data and transparency, working closely with parents, and maintaining investment in the issue over time, said Mel Atkins, executive director of Community and Students for Grand Rapids Public Schools.
The District also instituted “Challenge 5,” which is a challenge between the grades to reward which section of the schools has the best attendance each month.
The stakes are high: chronic absenteeism “hits everything,” said Atkins. “If you miss four days of school, that’s really the breaking point when you start to be successful or not successful,” according to observations in the Grand Rapids school district.
On Count Day, attendance is even more important. “90-percent of our funding comes from this particular day,” said Atkins. The district has sponsored Spirit Week in many of the schools in order to boost attendance on Count Day, but for Atkins, the most important goal is for the school and teachers to develop relationships with their students over the first few weeks of school.
Listen above for the full conversation.