2012-10-18 / School

Superintendent’s Corner

Frances M. McArthur, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools Lexington Independent School District

You may have heard some of the radio and TV announcements this past month from the Education Equals Economics Alliance (E3) regarding student absences in central Texas public schools.

A recent analysis conducted by E3 found that Central Texas schools have more student absences than the state average. In fact, this same study indicated that half of Central Texas students miss more than six class days per year, and account for 85 percent of all absences. When they looked at absences by grade for middle and high school, they saw a big jump in absences between 8th and 9th grade. With that data in mind, E3 is challenging districts in central Texas to raise student attendance by two percent, or just three days per students.

There is no doubt that poor attendance impacts student learning. It is easy for us to see why students who are present are more successful in school. Studies show that it actually takes two or more days for a student to make up a missed day and poor attendance affects the whole classroom when class time is interrupted for teachers to help catch up students who have missed school. In Lexington schools, we want our children in school every day that they are not sick, because we recognize the correlation between student outcomes and their presence in class every day.

There is another way that students’ school attendance impacts student learning. Our state of Texas school funding formula is based on weighted average daily attendance, so when students miss school, Lexington ISD loses some of the state revenue dollars that could be allocated to our schools.

Therefore, student absences directly impact our ability to provide additional teachers and resources here in Lexington. During the 2011-2012 school year the Lexington ISD attendance rate was 97.43%. We recognize that raising our attendance by two percent as the *Why Missing School Matters* campaign is challenging us to do, will be difficult. I want to reiterate that we do not want our children coming to school sick. However, just raising our attendance percentage by a little over a half of a percentage point to 98%, would generate an additional $40,000.00 in state aide to Lexington Schools. Another way of looking at it is, the increase of money coming into Lexington from just one half of a percentage increase in student attendance, would allow us to hire one more teacher or would allow us to fund half of a continuous medical science pathway that our students are begging for.

As our school district works hard towards making sure every student graduates with an array of choices to enter college, career or the military, our community and parents can support Lexington schools by encouraging student attendance.

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