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Attendance at school is focus of initiative

September 12, 2018

The Watertown Unified School District, Dodgeland School District and community partners are working together to rally students to attend school on time, every day.

Through their partnership with Every Child Thrives, local elementary schools will kick off the school year with a data-driven, national best practice attendance challenge called “Challenge 5” to encourage students to strive for less than five days absent.

“Creating good attendance habits early is critical to a student’s academic success,” said Brad Clark, Webster Elementary School principal. “Children who are chronically absent in elementary school are more likely to be chronically absent in later years, since they never developed good attendance habits.”

In Wisconsin, students are considered chronically absent when they miss 10 or more days of school in an academic year. Locally, 30 percent of students in kindergarten and first grade fall into this category. When elementary students are chronically absent, they often have difficulty keeping up with their peers academically and tend to fall behind in reading.

When students improve their school attendance, their grades and reading skills often improve -- even among those students who are struggling in school.

“When students are able to read at grade-level by the end of third grade, they successfully transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn,’” said Jessica Johnson, Dodgeland Elementary School principal. “These students are three to four times more likely to graduate high school, setting them up for a strong future.”

Regular attendance is the precursor to the “soft skills” that employers will expect and require. Students who don’t develop the habits associated with good attendance in the early years will find it difficult to develop them as adults.

Using attendance data from last school year, each elementary school has set its unique outcome measurements for improved attendance. By closely monitoring each student, the schools will work to increase the number of children who are absent five days or less during the school year.

Attendance teams in each school will educate students and families on the negative impact of too many absences, recognize good and improved attendance, and closely monitor absences in order to offer personalized early outreach for students and families in need of additional support.

Community members are asked to support “Challenge 5” by encouraging children to be in school every day, offering to help with rides to school, sharing the importance of school attendance with families, or reinforcing the “Challenge 5″ message in the workplace.

ECT is a collaborative effort of more than 30 community organizations working together to ensure all children thrive in health, learning and life. The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation provides financial support and facilitation for the partnership.

Since its creation in September 2017, the health foundation has invested more than $3.2 million in health enhancement initiatives across Dodge and Jefferson counties. To learn more about the foundation and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.

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