Good morning Wildcat Nation, fall is upon us!

This is definitely one of my favorite times of the year, cooler temperatures and beautiful colors. As I thought about what to share today I landed on the topic of student attendance. While this may not seem like that big of a deal to some it has some resounding effects on student success and achievement.

Currently in the United States it is estimated that one in 10 students are chronically absent from school which increases greatly the chances they will fall behind or drop out. For the Neosho R-5 School District, this means that 40-45 of our current students will either fall behind, not graduate with their cohort class, or will drop out of school. Put in those terms this becomes even more alarming as we work toward our District Mission "to inspire high academic achievement and maximize personal potential in all students."

To be considered chronically absent a student must miss 18 or more days of school throughout the year regardless of whether the absences are excused, unexcused or for disciplinary reasons. Research that has been completed by John's Hopkins University estimates between 5 and 7.5 million students nationwide are missing too much school. The loss in instructional time has a direct correlation with poor academic achievement at all ages. If this pattern continues over multiple years it proves detrimental and most times fatal for the student's educational progress. In early grades students who are chronically absent from class miss crucial language instruction, and are less likely to reach reading proficiency by the third grade. At Neosho administrators and teacher teams are constantly working to identify students who are At-Risk and determine patterns that may be useful in identifying these students early and often.

While absenteeism is an area the district needs to continue to focus on, it is imperative that parents are involved in the process as well. Teachers and parents need to work hand-in-hand to find ways to address the issue in the best interest of the student. Districts across the nation have developed and implemented various strategies in an effort to address this problem. Some examples include:

• Rewarding good and improved attendance with award and other incentives.

• Engaging the community by giving students, families, and residents information about the importance of regular attendance, and connecting students and their families with social services if needed to help with health care, etc.

• Use personalized, early outreach, talking to families as soon as the student is at risk.

• Create a team to monitor attendance, and learn which students are chronically absent.

• Investigate any systemic barriers, such as transportation issues, etc. that may prevent students from attending school.

Finally, districts need to rely on data and insight from teachers to find out why students are missing school and work to put measures in place to address the issue. As we move ahead we must, as a community, be committed to working together to address any and all issues related to student success. If students aren't at school they can't receive the much needed instruction they will rely on for success not only in school but in life. Thank you for all you do as a community for our schools, I look forward to working closely together as we tackle the large job of providing the best education possible for all of our students. Have a GREAT week!

Dan Decker is superintendent of the Neosho R-5 School District.