Spring High School Assistant Principal Paul Carampatan, from left, assists Sonia Sanchez and her son Adam Garcia during an attendance event at the school.
HOUSTON – Dec. 1, 2017 – Spring High School ninth-grader Adam Garcia has a lot of work to do before winter break to catch up in his classes after missing a week of school in November because of a family trip.
But the 15-year-old is motivated because he knows that without good grades and solid attendance he won’t be about to try out for the school’s baseball team in January. “I love to play the game,” he said.
On Thursday, he and his mother Sonia Sanchez turned out for a special attendance event at the high school to get specific details on how to make up for missed classes and stay on track for the rest of the year. The drop-in session for parents and students is part of a districtwide campaign to put the spotlight on the importance of regular attendance, from prekindergarten to graduation.
Known as “EVERYday counts, Attendance Matters,” the initiative is recognition that student achievement depends on students’ not missing school. Research shows that missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason can translate into third-graders who can’t read, sixth-graders who fail classes and high-schoolers who drop out.
“We need our students to be in class everyday ready to learn,” said Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, the chief of school leadership and student support services. “Good attendance is critical to keeping students from falling behind and struggling. It’s like an ounce of prevention. Not missing school in the first place is easier than trying to make up for missed days.”
Across the district, schools are pushing that message among their students and parents, offering incentives for good attendance, strengthening systems to monitor attendance and increasing awareness of what’s at stake when students miss school.
“Attendance is a big deal as it relates to credit recovery,” said Spring High School Assistant Principal Purnell Harvey. “Students with eight or more absences in a class are at risk of losing credit.”
He and his team are working to catch students before they get to that point, as well as reward students who consistently show up every day, with special events or incentives. Some ideas being considered include a pass to eat lunch in the courtyard, rather than the cafeteria.
Such efforts are making a difference. At a recent meeting of the Board of Trustees, Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson praised those schools that are making attendance gains, including Westfield High School, which has seen a nearly 12 percent year-over-year improvement in attendance.
He also lauded Cooper Elementary, which has the highest year-to-date attendance among all campuses at 98 percent. He said it’s no surprise that Cooper was awarded all possible distinctions in the 2017 TEA accountability ratings.
“It’s clear that students who don’t miss school do better academically,” he said. “We’re going to keep supporting all of our campuses to make attendance a priority because we know that’s one of the best strategies to boost student achievement.”
At Spring High School, Adam Garcia’s mother Sonia Sanchez said she was glad the school offered an attendance night where she and her son could meet with an assistant principal and counselor. With her son just starting high school this fall, she said there’s been a transition in learning the expectations. “We’re both learning how the system works,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re on the right path.”
As for Adam, he says he’s on track to make up the classes he missed during the family trip through tutorials. When asked if he might consider missing anymore school for vacation or otherwise, he was adamant and straightforward in his response: “No,” he said.