School attendance efforts pay off

Most Keizer schools saw a significant uptick in attendance during the 2018-19 school year.

Gubser Elementary School and McNary High School saw the largest improvements in attendance within Keizer according to figures released by the Salem-Keizer School District last week. 

The district began an effort to improve attendance throughout Salem-Keizer in fall 2018 as chronic absenteeism – defined as missing 18 days or more of the school year – took a toll on instruction and graduation rates. Since the start of the campaign, schools and community organizations have been collaborating to identify barriers to attendance for students across the district. The work has centered around connecting students and families to community resources, providing incentives for positive attendance trends and building relationships with each and every student.

“We know that students succeed when they know that there is someone who believes in them,” said Superintendent Christy Perry. “Regular attendance is a key indicator of student success and habits start with our very youngest learners in pre-kindergarten. Building connections with students from day one and encouraging them to be there every day is the first step toward helping our students reach the graduation stage.”

District-wide, 49 of the 65 schools grew their attendance rates since the 2017-18 school year, and more than 400 additional students are considered to be regular attenders.

Gubser students increased regular attendance from 70 percent in the 2017-18 school year to 78 percent this year. McNary students improved regular attendance from 63 percent to 69 percent. Most Keizer schools saw improvement in the range of 1 to 5 percent.

Weddle Elementary School and Whiteaker Middle Schools were the only schools to experience a drop in regular attendance rates, 6 and 3 percent, respectively.

Across the district schools are working to improve their attendance rates through identifying resources for their students, community engagement and more. Through a grant with Kaiser Permanente, the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality is also working to develop attendance supports for families in the North Salem High feeder system. At North, students improved their attendance rate this year by 6.3 percentage points.

During the summer, the district will continue to collaborate with community organizations to develop additional supports and resources for families, students and educators to continue to improve attendance.

“The improvements to our attendance rates across the district are so encouraging,” said Perry. “However, we still have a lot of work to do, and this is work that we will continue to do until we help each and every student be there every day in District 24J.”