School Attendance At 10-year High

But Officials Cite Room For Improvement In 94.2 Percent Rate

September 15, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Carroll students showed up for class more often last year than any other year in the past decade, school officials reported Friday.

The district's average daily attendance rate was 94.2 percent, up from 94.1 percent during the 1989-1990 school year, said Edwin L. Davis, director of pupil services/special programs.

"The good news is that (the rate) is an all-time 10-year record,"Davis said. "It's a standard that is not met in all schools, but we're striving to do so."

Average elementary school attendance rangedfrom 93.33 percent to 95.49 percent. Average high school attendance ranged from 91.34 percent to 95.43 percent, he said.

"We want to work for better attendance," he said.

Although absenteeism has always been a concern, school officials have increased efforts to boost attendance because of the Maryland School Performance Program. As partof the state's school reform plan, attendance is one of the student participation areas used to measure success and target improvement. The other areas include promotion and dropout rates.

To receive a "satisfactory" rating, school districts must have a 94 percent averagedaily attendance. To receive an "excellent" rating, average daily attendance must be 96 percent.

Davis said research shows there is a strong relationship between good attendance and success in school. Heestimated that 1 percent or 2 percent of the district's 22,000 students are not being reached by the district's efforts. Typically, about4 percent have legitimate excuses for an absence, such as illness, on any given day, he said.

He attributed the 0.1 percentage-point increase in attendance to the efforts of school personnel, parents andcommunity agencies to resolve problems among students that may lead to absenteeism. In some schools, for example, adult mentors and peer counselors have been hooked up with students to encourage better attendance, he said.

Those efforts, along with various incentive programs, will continue, David said.

Barbara Guthrie, a pupil personnelworker assigned to Westminster High School, West Middle School and the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, said one of the incentive programs at the high school last year was a homeroom contest among grade levels for a free breakfast served by assistant principals.

Other pupil personnel workers reported similar incentive programs,many offered by county businesses, at schools throughout the county.Other measures include student and parent conferences and home visits by pupil personnel workers. Sometimes, despite school staff efforts, chronic absenteeism remains among some students.

The payoff for greater attendance, though, includes more than just good grades.

Erin Danz, Carroll's juvenile prosecutor, said juvenile crimes in the county have dropped by 29 percent from the previous year, while neighboring and other counties across the state have reported significant increases.

In the past six months, she said, the State's Attorney's Office has taken 11 parents to court for failing to have their children, ele

mentary through high school, attend school. They have received fines ranging from $1,800 to $6,300.

In addition, her office took four juveniles to court for truancy. Two of the students were removed from their homes for a period of time, she said.

"We're interested in kids getting an education," she said. "Kids who are truant have a lot of time on their hands and get in trouble."

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