Students lacking engagement leads to lower attendance rates

NOW: Students lacking engagement leads to lower attendance rates

GOSHEN, Ind. - It’s been a rollercoaster year with students and parents not knowing whether they are going to school in person or at home.

It’s caused a lack of motivation for some and as you will see soon, a drop in attendance. It’s forcing schools to now reshape their summer schooling programs and fix the issue.

"We track attendance, we track engagement, and we make phone calls, we even do home visits if we have to," Patrick Breen, the Principal at River Valley Middle-High School said.

In a year when some may want to throw in the towel, it’s up to students, parents and schools to make sure there is still a structured learning schedule and it’s taken seriously.

"In any school, you're gonna have a percentage of students that just aren't motivated to remain engaged, whether they're in person, you know, maybe the kid that just puts their head on the desk every day when they come in. Anyway, some of those students are at home doing the same thing. It's hard to get up on their alarm and, and they miss half the school day because they're just sitting in bed," Breen said.

"It's a lot easier to miss assignments," 7th-Grader Cayden Hurstel said.

"It can be harder to sometimes because it's like, we don't have a teacher to ask questions as much, and it's kind of just an assignment and do it," Arianna Ruppert said.

"When I see it on their google classrooms on their laptops. I'm like, oh, you didn't do this assignment, no I did that at school. And I'm like, I hope you're telling me the truth because I can't tell anymore," Jessica Ruppert said.

Poor attendance is an issue at nearly every school we’ve spoken to, including Goshen.

"Goshen has been in person for elementary k through six since day one. But one of the things we have asked parents to do is that if a student isn't feeling well. We much more grace and keep them home. If you're not sure keep them home and so what that has led to is just a number of absences that we normally wouldn't have seen in the amount," Alan Metcalfe, the Asst. Superintendent at Goshen Community Schools said.

A rising number of absences might sound like a generalization until you look at the numbers.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, the Goshen school district has had between a 93 and a 96 percent attendance rate the past 15 years.

But now?

"We are right now running in the mid to upper 80s," he said.

Metcalfe said it's an alarming trend.

"So when you think about just the number of days it takes for every kid to that has to miss to lower that percentage is, it's quite a few days. We also have students who have been vert our virtual because we also have an online option for parents. And so we also monitor attendance on that, and that has been very difficult," he said. "Sometimes, either through technical issues sometimes the technology is not working correctly. Sometimes students forget to log on, a lot of things have happened over the course of this year that has made it monitoring attendance difficult.”

With 20 to 30% of Goshen's students learning at home, have virtual students unequally taken more absences than in-person students?

“I would say no, it's still we've still had more in-person in fact we've had our learning our online courses. We started out with about 700 or so elementary students, we're down to about 350. So a lot of them have come back over the course of the year as they've seen that our schools are safe places for them to be with contact tracing social distancing," he said.

Although some students thrive online, Metcalfe said in-person learning is still the best option. Either way, the student has to show up.

“I just want to know parents to continue to understand that, you know, attendance is probably one of the first steps that we take toward educating if they're not here, then we can't do our jobs and so in order to make sure that students get where they need to go in life. We want him here as often as possible," he said.

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