Positive School Attendance

District 39 has set a goal this year of improving positive school attendance. Our focus is on the whole child and includes academics as well as the characteristics of successful learners; attendance is an important component of both. Research shows that attendance habits begin early and that there is a direct correlation between achievement and attendance. While poor attendance can contribute to academic struggles, it can also lead to school-related anxiety.  


Beginning in October, parents are receiving a monthly report on their child’s attendance. We know that absences can be unavoidable. However, our goal is to work with families to decrease unnecessary absences and move students from at-risk to positive attendance. We are happy to work with you to address specific issues related to your child’s school attendance.

Frequently Asked Questions 1. What is positive attendance?

Positive attendance is defined as being in school for 95% of the time or more, which means missing fewer than 9 days throughout a school year. Students are considered at-risk if they are missing school more than 5% of the time. A student is considered chronically absent if they miss more than 10% of school days.

  • Positive Attendance (9 or fewer absences)

  • At-Risk (10-17 days absent)

  • Chronic Absence (18 or more days absent)


2.) Why is D39 focusing on this now and what is the goal?

Over the past few years, teachers and school administrators were starting to notice increased instances of school refusal. Additionally, more and more parents were requesting support and information for addressing symptoms of school related anxiety. The District took a closer look at attendance patterns and research surrounding best practices for promoting positive attendance.

Attendance data over the last five years shows that approximately 70% of D39 students have positive attendance, and positive attendance rates decrease in the upper grades. District 39’s goal is to have 80% of students achieving positive attendance by the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Research shows high-performing students are affected by absences, not just average and poor-performing students. Last year, approximately 6% of D39 students were considered chronically absent. That equates to 212 students across the District! Of the students who were identified as chronically absent in 2015-16, approximately 40% in K-4 and 67% in 5-8 were believed to have been impacted by school refusal or school related anxiety.

District 39 is committed to helping students develop grit, perseverance, and the skills needed to become successful in work and in life. The District is focused on helping students develop positive attendance habits and the skills necessary to overcome fears and anxiety related to school.


3.) What do I do if I think my child is developing or has school anxiety/refusal?

District 39 offers support and resources for families and students who might be experiencing symptoms of school anxiety or refusal. If you are worried that your child may be at risk, contact your child’s teacher, principal, or school social worker to report your concerns.


4.) What do I do if my child is legitimately ill and missing a lot of school?

Contact your child’s teacher, principal, and nurse to inform them of the illnesses. In some cases, a doctor’s note may be requested. For excused absences, arrangements can be made with the classroom teacher to make up missing assignments.


5.) What types of absences are excused?

Acceptable reasons for student absences include illnesses, medical appointments (that can’t be scheduled outside of the school day), observation of a religious holiday, a family death or other family emergency. We highly discourage absences that fall outside of these reasons. While District 39 recognizes the value of travel, parents are highly encouraged to schedule vacations that do not interfere with school attendance. Whether an absence is excused or unexcused, research shows there is a negative impact on student achievement when students miss more than 10% of school.


6.) What is District 39 doing to try and improve student attendance?

  • Increase parent awareness of the importance of positive attendance

  • Monitor and track tardy and attendance data on a monthly basis

  • Work with parents to address any concerns related to excessive absences

  • Provide teachers and other school personnel with training on recognizing and addressing school anxiety and refusal

  • Implement interventions for students who may be considered at-risk or chronically absent

  • Review current practices and develop plans to create a school climate that is safe, positive, and consistent with a culture of empathy


Below are some resources you may find helpful. Keep your Child on Track in Middle School and Junior High Strategies for Parents Build Good Attendance Habits Early Attendance Works
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