The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has joined a nationwide initiative celebrating Attendance Awareness Month this September. The campaign seeks to emphasize the value of regular school attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism in the new school year. “Attendance is critical to academic success,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “If we can ensure our students are taking full advantage of instructional time, we can narrow the achievement gap, reduce dropout rates and become a Top 10 state in high school graduation. But we must begin by highlighting the importance of attendance in early elementary grades. None of our efforts to improve outcomes will matter if kids aren’t in school, whether they are kindergartners or high school seniors.” Chronic absenteeism represents lost instructional time for students. In Oklahoma and many other states, chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent of the school year for any reason. Oklahoma and 37 other states are using chronic absenteeism as the school quality or student success indicator in their state accountability systems required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Research shows that missing school days is a strong early warning indicator that students are at risk for falling behind academically. Students who are chronically absent in third grade are much less likely to read on grade level. Similarly, students who are chronically absent in middle school are more likely to drop out of high school. Schools and districts can have an impact on student absenteeism rates by building a culture around good attendance and establishing meaningful relationships with students and families. “Oklahoma has made great strides in ensuring we are working with strong data to inform local decision-making and practice,” said Hofmeister. “Oklahoma schools, families and community partners must continue to work together to identify and work to correct the root causes of chronic absenteeism if we hope to decrease chronic absenteeism and, more importantly, lift academic outcomes for all students.” Attendance Works, a national initiative that works to build public awareness around the importance of regular school attendance, suggests simple ways community partners can support local school attendance efforts: • Faith leaders can educate their congregations about the importance of school attendance and recognize students and families who have improved attendance. • Business leaders can encourage employees to serve as attendance “buddies” for chronically absent students and nurture a culture of attendance by working with schools to provide incentives for improved attendance. • Health care providers can encourage families to make medical appointments for school-aged children before or after school and partner with local schools to address chronic health issues in the school community. The OSDE Chronic Absenteeism web page (https://sde.ok.gov/chronic-absenteeism) includes resources to support schools, families and communities as they work together to improve attendance. Resources include best practices for schools, attendance toolkits, local success stories, sample presentations, parent handouts and more. Visit Attendance Works (https://awareness.attendanceworks.org/) for additional resources and information about Attendance Awareness Month.