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Local schools improve attendance

Oregon Trail District ranks behind state average for 2014-15

The majority of Oregon Trail district schools are above the state’s average of students who regularly attend school, according to the Oregon Department of Education, but the district is still working to cut back on chronic absenteeism in its schools.

Statewide, one in six students missed at least 10 percent of their enrolled days last year — the definition of chronically absent — leaving a state average of 82.6 percent of students that attended at least 90 percent of school days.

“Our districts and teachers are invested in raising standards, improving instruction, and better supporting student learning. However, chronic absenteeism denies students access to the opportunities that will help close gaps and increase student achievement,” said Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor. “We know that by increasing student attendance — starting in kindergarten — we can improve student outcomes and graduation rates. With the efforts underway, and continued focus on this critical issue, we can and will see improvement.”

The Oregon Trail School District’s average number of students not chronically absent during the 2014-15 school year came in just under the state average at 82.4 percent.

In comparison, the Gresham-Barlow School District averaged 82.1 percent of students not chronically absent, and the Estacada School District percent was 84.4.

All Oregon Trail schools saw an increase in attendance rates since the 2013-14 school year.

State research shows that missing too much school is strongly correlated with failing to earn a diploma, according to an Oregon Trail district newsletter in October.

“Whether excused or unexcused, lost time in the classroom results in the student missing out on valuable academic content as presented by their teacher,” Superintendent Aaron Bayer said when the state’s preliminary attendance report was released in October. The state issued its final report last week.

The school with the lowest attendance rate was Sandy High at 75.5 percent.

Kelso Elementary School had the highest attendance rate at 93.6 percent.

“I think we are fortunate to have a stable population of involved families; we have an active parent community that prioritizes school and we communicate regularly the importance of good attendance for academic success,” said Kelso principal Katie Schweitzer. “We are proactive in reaching out to families that struggle with attendance to see if we can support them.”

Kelso staff stresses regular attendance in newsletters and parent communications and broaches the subject right from the beginning in Kindergarten.

The elementary school also has an annual drawing for a bicycle for which kids can earn raffle tickets by receiving perfect monthly attendance. Staff also hand out perfect attendance awards at the end of the year.

“There is a clear link to attendance and academic success and missing days creates holes in understanding that are very difficult to make up,” Schweitzer said. “It is nearly impossible to recreate class instruction, so missing that initial presentation of information can be really damaging.”

Regular attendance also helps build good habits and helps students feel included in their classroom, something important for them to continue wanting to show up to school.

“For those students who are struggling with attendance, we work hard to find out the hurdle and address it in a supportive manner,” Schweitzer added. “We are willing to think outside the box for ways to help families that have difficult situations.”

The school with the lowest attendance rate is Sandy High at 75.5 percent.