This week I received a phone call from the mom of two brothers who attend my school. This was my first communication with her since mid-September, when Child Welfare removed the boys and placed them in the custody of a foster parent. I was expecting the call because the social worker assigned to the case had already called to inform me that this parent was complying with the expectations that were in place, and therefore was given permission to call the school to “see how her boys were doing.” Talking about these young men was very easy for me to do because I had discussed the boy’s progress with their teachers on a regular basis and we were simply amazed with the rate at which they were improving since going into foster care.
As I listed the many improvements in the boys learning experience, the mother interrupted to ask what I thought it was that made such a difference. I could have named a few things. You see, my relationship with this family went back nearly 7 years, and for most of that time I worked with them to address the things that were getting in the way of their educational experience. But as I thought about it, it all came back to the same thing. For the past 5 months these boys came to school on time and ready to learn, and they came every day. By improving attendance from 25% to nearly 100% for 5 straight months, these boys have dramatically improved reading and math skills, appear healthier and happier, socialize with peers, demonstrate a high level of self-confidence, and are succeeding in school.
As schools wrestle with ways to engage students more fully in our ever-changing world, I remind you all of the most important factor in school success; the attendance factor.