Spring ISD attendance has dropped in the past five years, and district officials want to reverse that trend, which they said is associated with poor academic performance and higher dropout rates.
Since the 2012-13 academic year, overall district attendance has fallen from 94.83 percent to 93.97 percent in 2016-17, but the largest drop is at the high school level, which has fallen almost 3 percentage points.
Lupita Hinojosa, SISD chief of school leadership and student support services, said various factors contribute to poor attendance, including the increasing numbers of students who are wage-earners in their families or who are caring for children.
Some other students may not attend because they feel unsafe or unwelcome, she said.
Poor attendance in elementary school can lead to poor academic performance, and truancy at higher levels can lead to students being held back or dropping out, she said.
“First and foremost, a child that is chronically absent in the early grades is more likely to not read on grade level,” Hinojosa said. “When you get your older kids, they are more likely to be retained at a grade level.”
The district is working to improve attendance by focusing on school climate and culture, parental awareness, and putting systems in place that support good attendance, Hinojosa said.
The initiative began this summer with programs designed to teach teachers and administrators how to create a welcoming school climate.
The district also will intervene earlier with chronically absent students, and it plans to send letters to parents as soon as truancy becomes noticeable.
One of the main reasons why some students do not attend is a lack of connection with the school, Hinojosa said.
“[Some students] hadn’t made friends—there was no connection for them,” Hinojosa said.
The large size of district schools can be disorienting to students from smaller districts, she said. To make students feel more welcome, teachers will greet each student as he or she enters the classroom. Teachers will also provide more opportunities for collaborative work in class.
In addition, SISD plans a campaign in September to coincide with National Attendance Awareness Month. The district will identify residential areas where truancy is prevalent, visit the residences of students who have not reported to school and distribute door hangers and flyers describing the risks and consequences of missing school.
“The ramifications of the students not coming to school … really catches up when they get to the high school grades,” Hinojosa said.