Attendance affects achievement

Greetings from Fort High. I want to apologize for the prolonged break between columns. Some parents have told me they find my writings of use, so I will try not to have such a long gap again. I would like to continue with the theme I had established in November by discussing some often overlooked topics. This week, I’d like to focus on attendance and the impact it has on achievement. Attendance at Fort High is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that more than half of the students at Fort High have what I would consider very good attendance. However, almost 400 students missed more than 10 percent of the classes in a course they were taking. No marks are given for attendance, so it is possible to miss a large number of classes and still succeed. In reality, though, statistics indicate that failing to attend class has a direct impact on student achievement. To demonstrate this, I will use Grade 9 marks from the first semester and focus on students with 10 or more absences from class. With 10 absences, the student has missed more than 10 percent of the classes. (This only includes direct absences, and does not include classes missed to participate in other school activities, such as sports, although some of you may remember from an earlier column that our student athletes tend to perform very well academically). There were a total of 914 marks awarded in Grade 9 courses in the first semester, with roughly 230 Grade 9 students taking four courses each. Of those 914 marks, 233 were marks between 80 and 100 percent—good enough to be considered honour roll marks. Some 219 (94 percent) of those 233 marks were earned by students who had fewer than 10 absences. If we go to the other end of the scale, 80 of the 914 marks ended up being failing marks of less than 50 percent, which means the student did not earn the credit. Of those 80 failing marks, 59 (or 73 percent) came from students with 10 or more absences. While I don’t want to give you too many statistics, this relationship also was true for other marks. Although there were some exceptions, overall better attendance translated to better achievement. The most direct relationship was for Grade 9 marks, but it also was true for other grade levels, as well. For instance, 90 percent of students who failed Grade 12 courses missed 10 or more classes while only 19 percent of those students in Grade 12 who earned marks of 80 percent or better had missed more than 10 classes. These numbers tell the story. If a student is in class on a regular basis, it is likely they will be more successful. We ask our teachers to make sure that learning and/or assessment and evaluation is taking place in class each and every day. Although students who miss class can catch up on work missed, I often use the following analogy: “If I go to a movie and take notes and then tell you about the movie later, who will know more about the movie?” A student who is in class is going to have a better grasp of a course than a student who is absent—even if they work very hard to stay caught up. Some absences cannot be avoided. The recent ’flu epidemic is an example. Many students and teachers simply were too sick to come to school. Family emergencies, necessary travel for medical appointments, etc. are always going to be a fact of life in our geographic location. However, if parents instill in their students that school attendance is important, and take action to support this, it can go a long way to promoting student success. As I close, just a reminder of important dates. If you are reading this on Wednesday, March 7, your child should have brought home progress reports from his/her classes yesterday. Parents’ Night is tonight (March 7) from 7-9 p.m. The Ontario Secondary School Literacy test is fast approaching and will be written on Thursday, March 29. This is of particular importance to Grade 10 students and those who may have written the test previously but were not successful. If you would like to help your child prepare for this test, information is available at the EQAO’s website, which is the government organization that operates the test. The web address is As always, if you have any questions about this column, or anything going on at Fort High, feel free to contact me at the school.

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