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posted: 8/19/2014 5:01 AM

Editorial: Everyone has a stake in fighting truancy

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  • Steve Lundy/

    Steve Lundy/

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

The new school year begins in classrooms throughout the suburbs, arriving on the wings of excitement, hope and promise.

There's something refreshing about the first day. Much like New Year's Day, it's a clean start, free of the baggage and bad habits of the past.

It's a time to set goals and resolve to do better -- to be better -- than last school year.

For some, that means better grades. For others, it is must be much more fundamental -- getting to school every day.

Parents, staff and community members all must play an active role to ensure children are in school and ready to learn. The new school year is a good time to start.

There is no way to sugarcoat the importance.

Attendance is a critical element in the funding formula for school districts. It's no less critical to the future of students.

Truancy contributes to poor reading skills and higher dropout rates.

It's a risk factor for a host of serious problems ranging from substance abuse to teen pregnancy.

And, studies show that men and women with a high school degree or equivalency earn more money than those without.

One suburban school district, Elgin Area School District U-46, last week launched a campaign to improve student attendance rates.

The "I'm Here; ¡Aqui´ estoy!" messaging campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of going to school and staying in school.

U-46's goal is to increase its attendance rate from 94.3 percent in the 2013-14 school year -- on average, 1,949 students are missing from classrooms each day -- to an ambitious 98 percent.

"We are working collaboratively with parents, staff and community members to reinforce the importance of showing up to make sure that (students) are on track to graduate," district spokesman Patrick Mogge told the Daily Herald's Madhu Krishnamurthy.

It's an issue all suburban school districts should examine because U-46 is not alone, hovering around the state attendance average of 94.2 percent.

Obviously, the bulk of the heavy lifting to make sure kids get to school every day starts at home.

But it shouldn't end there.

The National Center for School Engagement says some concrete steps to fight truancy include:

• Make the school a place where parents and students feel welcome.

• Forge relationships with local law enforcement and businesses to make them allies in showing that school is the place to be.

• Call parents, not answering machines, when their children are not in school to let them know the school is concerned.

• Talk to students about why they were gone and let them know they were missed.

Raising awareness is good, but it also requires the community working together to fight truancy.

Everyone has a stake in this.

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