Attendance Awareness Month
Recent McFarland High School graduate Arlene Munoz shares her story to help kick off Attendance Awareness Month
McFarland High School Junior Arlene Munoz missed too much school during her junior year and her grades reflected it. She managed a dismal 1.57 GPA during her second term of the 2013-2014 school year, when she missed more than 100 days of school to help care for her ailing mother.
Arlene’s story starts out like that of so many other students like her who struggle to attend school regularly for a variety of reasons, many of whom ultimately drop out and live a life less fulfilled.
But Arlene wasn’t about to become a statistic. Thanks to a process known as School Attendance Review Board (SARB) — a kind of safety net wherein schools intervene to help students with persistent attendance issues — Arlene began to understand the consequences of poor attendance. She turned things around, started attending regularly and achieved a 3.67 GPA her next term. She is starting classes at BC this fall with a goal of transferring to Fresno State.
Arlene was on hand to share her story at a news conference on Monday, Aug. 24 where educators, partners in law enforcement and elected officials gathered to ask for the community’s help in combating chronic absenteeism locally.
“Chronic absenteeism isn’t just a family or school problem,” said Christine Frazier, Kern County Superintendent of Schools. “It is a problem that impacts every citizen in our community and one that we need to collectively make a priority.”
Kids not being in school all day, every day has lasting implication on many facets of our community, experts agree. When kids aren’t in school, they are more likely to commit crimes. What more, taking into consideration the cost of incarceration and lost economic productivity and tax revenues, dropouts cost California an estimated $46.4 billion per year.
Superintendent Frazier also pointed out that absenteeism isn’t just an issue that impacts older students like Arlene. Trends start surprisingly early she said. For instance, national research shows that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent, meaning that they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days of instruction. That’s just 2 to 3 days per month of excused or unexcused absences. Children from low-income families are at even greater risk of missing school days.
Research also shows that students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently after third grade. Students who don’t read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school in later years. By middle school, chronic absence is the leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
As the new school year begins, schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others around Kern County — and the nation — are being urged to come together to deliver the message that every school day counts.
Arlene summed the message up pretty nicely in her own words.
“What are we without an education?” she asked, “we are nothing.”
For more information visit, www.kernstayinschool.org.