Make Every Day Count Graduation Matters Gallatin

Rick Gale  |   Sunday Aug. 31st, 2014

Chronic absence is a leading early warning indicator of academic trouble and later drop out. If a child is not in school, they’re likely headed off track. While too many of our children – as many as 7.5 million across the country – miss nearly a month of school every year, there’s a growing awareness here in Gallatin County that commonsense solutions can address the problem of chronic absence.

Why should you care?  
• In Montana over 2,000 students drop out from Montana schools every year.  
• National research shows that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days of instruction, because of excused and unexcused absences.  
• As global competition demands for high workforce skills increases, the U.S. economy is producing fewer educated workers.

We should all care because this is an issue that is solveable, and there are a lot of simple and creative ways to intervene with kids and parents to help kids get back on track and back in the classroom.

The trend of chronic absence can start as early as kindergarten and continue through middle school all the way to high school, contributing to achievement gaps and the dropout rate.  

Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, and students who don’t read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school.


The most crucial step to getting children on a good attendance track is letting families know about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day. It’s up to parents to build a habit of good attendance, enforce bedtimes and other routines and avoid vacations while school is in session.  

Teachers can enforce these messages and, when they can, offer fun
incentives for those students who show the best attendance or most improvement. Businesses, faith leaders, and community volunteers can also convey this message.

Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve schools. All of our investments in curriculum and instruction won’t amount to much if students aren’t showing up to benefit from them. As a community we can all help and turn this issue around. Think about what you can do within your own family and your own neighborhood to help more kids to school. Together, we can help insure Gallatin’s kids are in school to make every day count.  

Graduation Matters Gallatin is a local coalition of diverse individuals and organizations sharing their expertise and resources to develop and implement innovative strategies to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. Give to this local effort at http://www.greatergallatinunitedway.org/Ways-to-Give   

About the Author(s)

Rick Gale

Rick Gale is Assistant National Director for the Elks Drug Awareness Program, a Bozeman Public Schools Guest Teacher, and member of Veterans Alliance of Southwest Montana.

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