Tools available for getting children to school

Published 8:57 am Wednesday, June 20, 2012

by Anne Bryant

Tomorrow, June 21, is the longest day of the year with more daylight hours than any other day and the United Way official Day of Action.

What will you do on this special day to improve your community?

Much has been written over the past several weeks about the importance of education in our schools. Since I don’t think this can be stressed too much, I am writing about it again.

My angle is attendance — every day. Up to 7.5 million students miss at least a month of school each year.

Why should we focus on attendance?

* Children can’t learn if they aren’t in school, so attendance is a must.

* We can influence attendance and poor attendance can be prevented.

* Parents — especially in the early years — are best positioned to ensure children attend school and build the expectation around regular attendance.

How is attendance focused on school success?

Chronic absence in kindergarten is associated with lower academic performance in first grade among all children and for poor children it predicts the lowest levels of educational achievement at the end of fifth grade.

So maybe we should think again when we take our child out of kindergarten even for a day or two because it does matter.

By sixth grade, missing 20 percent, or two months of school, is a critical warning sign of school dropout.

What can we do to help parents keep their kids in school?

Schools can:

* Educate families about the adverse impact of poor attendance on school achievement

* Inform parents about the positive incentives students receive for good attendance; consider recognizing parents as well for their role in their child’s success

* Notify parents that their child’s absence was noticed either through a call or an e-mail

* Reach out to families to find out what is happening if children miss school regularly

* Offer help — either in-school or community resources.

Community agencies can:

* Teach parents about the importance of regular attendance starting in kindergarten

* Help parents of older students understand that excessive absence is a critical warning sign for dropping out

* Partner with schools to provide social work and case management supports to families of children with extended absences

* Address barriers to attendance by offering services like economic support and social services at schools and referring folks to resources in the community.

Parents — what can you do?

You can:

* Help your child get into the habit and learn the value of regular attendance

* Teach your child that attending school is non-negotiable unless they are truly sick

* Build relationships with other families and discuss how you can help each other out — drop off or pick up children, baby-sit — in time of need or emergencies

* Identify non-academic activities — drama, art, music, sports, — that can help motivate your child’s interest in school and learning

All of this information came from the Parent Engagement Toolkit, which can be found at

There is a great interactive website called There is a really cool service kids can sign up for to get a wake-up call from a celebrity each school day morning starting in October.

How would your child like waking up to a call from Flo Rida, Chris Canty, Nicki Minaj or Victoria Justice? There are many celebrities to choose from.

And it’s simple — just go to the website and sign up.

Other tools include an attendance calculator that lets you find out the chances of graduating on time based on missed school days and a link to many resources for dollars for college. Don’t have a computer? Go to the library and use one for free.

So what will you do on June 21? Will you commit to getting your child or grandchild to school? Or to helping a friend or neighbor get their child to school? It’s a commitment that is guaranteed to make a difference.

Franklin-Southampton Area United Way was founded in 1940 as a Community Chest, and we are part of the larger United Way movement that is celebrating 125 years of improving lives. During this milestone, we celebrate those people and organizations who continue to advance a movement to create opportunities for a better life for all.

Join the movement. You can give. You can advocate. And you can volunteer. That’s what it means to LIVE UNITED.

ANNE BRYANT is the executive director for Franklin-Southampton Area United Way and can be reached at