AHPS Conducting Important Survey on Student Attendance

AHPS Conducting Important Survey on Student Attendance
Posted on 05/21/2024

Students at Callaghan Elementary School were awarded prizes earlier this schol year as part of a division-wide competition to boost attendance. With plans for the 2024-2035 school year under way, AHPS is surveying parents and guardians about school attendance practices. 

LOW MOOR — Alleghany Highlands Public Schools is surveying parents and guardians about school attendance practices.

The convenient online survey is designed to help refine communications about attendance and help AHPS make decisions about what support might help students attend school more regularly. It will also help AHPS determine reasons students who attend school regularly do so.

School divisions nationwide and throughout the Virginia nation have experienced  increased  student absenteeism since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Most concerning is the dramatic increase in students who are considered chronically absent. To be considered as chronically absent, a student must miss 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. This type of absenteeism is different from truancy, or a pattern of missing school in specific ways that local courts can address.

AHPS has made substantial progress in helping encourage students to attend school through the hard work of teachers, school principals, and communications with families. 

“When students are chronically absent — missing 10 percent or more of school days due to absence for any reason — excused, unexcused absences and suspensions — can translate into students having difficulty learning to read by the third grade, achieving in middle school, and graduating from high school," said Cindy Fox, supervisor of customized learning and AHPS' champion for attendance.

”We have established an attendance task force at AHPS and we want to send this survey so we can see what parents understand about their child’s attendance,” Fox said.  

Chronic absenteeism is a high concern in schools nationwide. Fox said that while chronic absence presents academic challenges for students not in class, when it reaches high levels in a classroom or school, all students may suffer because the resulting classroom churn hampers teachers’ ability to engage all students and meet their learning needs.

“The good news is that our work throughout the country shows us that chronic absence is a solvable problem. What works is taking a data-driven, comprehensive approach that begins with engaging students and families as well as preventing absences from adding up before they fall behind academically. The key is using chronic absence data as a diagnostic tool to identify where prevention and early intervention are needed,” she said.

The latest national data available from the U.S. Department of Education shows at least 10.1 million students were chronically absent during the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This data, collected for the 2020-21 school year, is a substantial increase from the  approximately 8 million students chronically absent in the prior years.

Chronic absence continued to surge during the next school year. Although national data has not yet been released for the 2021-22 school year, data already available from several states, inc;uding Virginia, show rates doubled from those prior to the pandemic.This offers evidence that chronic absence has at least doubled to an estimated 16 million, or one out of three students nationwide.

There are multiple reasons children attend school, but it is clear that their positive connections with adults at school are very helpful in motivating them.

“From our bus drivers who help begin each child’s school day to countless others working at the school, we are thankful for all the efforts of the AHPS staff in welcoming children at school,” said Kim Halterman and Melinda Snead-Johnson, leaders of AHPS.  

Two of the three goals in the AHPS strategic plan directly support regular student attendance by encouraging student engagement in class and helping them prepare for their adult lives.  The third goal focuses on communication with the community, and Halterman and Snead-Johnson say this also has a positive effect on student attendance.

“It is clear to us that our community appreciates knowing about the good things happening in our schools,” said Halterman and Snead-Johnson. “Our students and staff are achieving each day.”

The survey is available at www.ahps.k12.va.us under “Important Information” on the website’s main page. As an added convenience, it can also be found on the AHPS Facebook page (AHPublicSchools). The survey will be open until June 1.  The estimated time to complete the survey is two to five minutes.

The Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Division was created on July 1, 2022, through the merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. 

AHPS news and updates are regularly posted on Facebook at AHPublicSchools, and the division website www.ahps.k12.va.us.


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