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Our View: Showing up matters, especially in school

Districts are fighting chronic absenteeism

Published on October 26, 2017 12:01AM

A Strive for Five campaign is meant to improve school attendance.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

A Strive for Five campaign is meant to improve school attendance.

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It has been another month of distressing news for an Oregon education system that continues to rank among the worst in the country. 

Administration after administration, from state government all the way down to local school districts, have promised reforms and improvement.

Yet new initiatives, new tests to measure progress, new management, new programs and new funding sources always seem stymied — they lack follow-through, sending Oregon education back where it started, though pointed in a different direction.

On Oct. 11, Oregon’s chief state schools officer Salam Noor resigned under pressure from Gov. Kate Brown. That’s the same governor who handpicked Noor to oversee the state’s K-12 schools little more than two years ago. According to the governor’s press secretary, Brown said she was no longer satisfied with Noor’s ability to execute her vision.

So back to square one for Oregon education. Back to the back of the pack, at least for now.

From a local perspective, school districts received their annual “report cards” the next day and they were a mixed bag. In Clatsop County the grades were far from straight As, but not among the failing marks either. But they show there is plenty of room to improve in test scores, graduation rates and other performance measures.

One standout statistic is poor school attendance, which we recently spotlighted in a Daily Astorian story on Clatsop County school districts’ fight against chronic absenteeism.

The state defines “regular attenders” as students who attend at least 90 percent of the school year and most schools across the state fall far below that level. Statistics show that students who fall below that mark test well below those who show up reliably, so showing up for class not only matters, it matters a great deal.

Statewide, the numbers are nowhere near good enough, and unfortunately the Astoria School District closely follows the state average, with nearly 20 percent of students missing at least 10 percent of possible school days last year. That’s a 1 percent increase from the prior year. The Seaside School District led the county in chronic absenteeism last school year with 24 percent of students not regularly attending, followed by Knappa with 22.3 percent and Jewell with 21.1 percent. The Warrenton-Hammond School District was at 14.5 percent, the lowest in the county. Warrenton had posted a 9 percent chronic absenteeism rate in 2014-15 that doubled to 18.5 percent in 2015-16 before decreasing last year.

The Astoria district this year launched Strive for Five, an attendance campaign with a goal for students to miss no more than a week of school the entire year. Astoria Superintendent Craig Hoppes says the campaign has raised awareness about attendance, an issue the school district plans to highlight often throughout the year.

That’s good — the disturbing absenteeism numbers need great improvement.

Much of the education system can seem bureaucratic, generic and random. But one of the best things we can do to get our students through school is to get them to school.

Accept only legitimate excuses — contagious illness the obvious one. Get your child to class and the state’s statistics, and our community as a whole, will no doubt improve.


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