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County weighs in on attendance campaign


The straightforward message behind “Strive for Less than 5”, the countywide campaign to reduce absences: The more school a child misses, the further they fall behind and the more at risk they are of eventually dropping out.

Kent ISD and Kent County hosted a media briefing recently at the Kent County Building to share that message, backed by statistics presented by Kent ISD data analyst Sunil Joy. There is a 14 percent gap in third-grade reading scores between students who are chronically absent and those who aren’t, with the impact much worse for low-income students, Joy said. Also, students who have been chronically absent every year since kindergarten are performing at levels lower than those never chronically absent.

To address the issue, Kent ISD districts recently created a common definition for chronic absenteeism: missing 10 percent or more school days. Ten percent translates to two days per month or 18 days in a 180-day school year. Then they created the campaign, including flyers, posters, yard signs and a video, with the help of sponsors.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Feeney said she helps to connect students who end up in front of her for truancy with transportation, mental health services, housing programs, removing whatever barrier might be keeping them from school.

“We are trying to impress upon parents that they need to take children to school all day every day,” she said. “It all starts with attendance. They have to show up to be successful.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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