LISD strategizes to improve attendance


By Miles Smith

With cold and flu season being exceptionally fierce this year, Lockhart school district officials definitely want parents to keep their kids home if they’re sick.
But if children are not ill, LISD officials are trying to drive home the point this year that kids need to be in school.
The district held a Day Without an Absence on Jan. 9, pushing for high attendance numbers on the first day after Christmas break. Reminders about the day were sent by e-mail and social media during the break, and officials said it gave them a good way to connect with parents and keep them engaged.
The end result: 95.83 percent attendance across the district, compared with 93.71 percent last year on the first day back from Christmas break.
“Two percentage points is huge,” said Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Brents. “That’s 120 kids.”
The day is part of a larger push LISD is making for better student attendance. Officials said they’d examined data that suggests there’s traditionally been a level of acceptance pertaining to absence among parents in the district. Examples include one kid in a family being sick, so they all stay home, or it being cold and rainy, so parents decide the kids don’t need to go to school.
But attending classes is a big deal — according to Attendanceworks.org, missing two days of school can put a student a half a year behind the other children.
“We’re trying to change the culture,” said Superintendent Susan Bohn. “We need to get parents to where they believe school is a place they bring their kids to learn, that what they’re getting is valuable.”
Schools that are rated better than Lockhart ISD in terms of performance have attendance rates at 97 percent or above, Bohn said. Across the district, Lockhart’s ranges between 96 and 97 percent. Attendance is lower at the high school number at around 96 percent, and is worst in 10th grade, where attendance usually hovers at around 94 percent.
In the earlier grades, the culture shift is starting to take hold, however. The shoe is on the other foot: Kids are now trying to convince their parents that they need to be in school and don’t want to stay home.
“Staff at the elementary levels have been putting in place incentives to get kids to come to school,” said Bohn, who explained that some classes were now competing against one another. “We’ve heard stories of kids telling their parents, ‘No, I’ve got to go. My class needs me.’”


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