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Attendance policy put under microscope at Maryvale School Board meeting

 When it comes to attendance, Maryvale schools have a good track record, but there’s always room for improvement.

State Education Department statistics show students who miss 10 percent of kindergarten and first grade typically score 60 percent lower than their peers on third-grade reading tests.

“That’s absolutely huge,” Frank said. “There are a lot of studies that link third-grade reading levels to graduation; if you’re below grade-level reading in third grade, your chance of graduation significantly decreases.”

According to Frank, the state Education Department defines chronic absenteeism as anyone who misses at least 10 percent of the school year, or 18 days.

“That’s pretty significant,” Frank told the Board of Education at its monthly meeting recently. “It’s almost four weeks of school.”

Information provided by BOCES shows that roughly one out of every six students at Maryvale is chronically absent.

Daily attendance at most school districts across the state is better than 90 percent; Maryvale’s is generally in the mid 90s.

“However, on any given day, we also have a lot of students who are missing their 18th, 19th, 20th day of school,” Frank added. “It’s just that they’re staggered.”

Tardiness, distrtict officials said, is rising at a rate of 7 to 8 percent per year in the primary and intermediate schools.

Incentives – or deterrents – at the middle and high schools keep tardiness in check. Students who are chronically late may jeopardize their participation in extracurricular activities.

Trustee Cindy Strong asked if there is a link between starting times and lateness. However, Superintendent Joseph D’Angelo said there is not, pointing to a change in start time a few years ago at Maryvale Primary.

“I was principal at the primary school and it was the usual suspects who were late, regardless of time,” D’Angelo said.

A Maryvale committee that examined attendance concluded that parental awareness can help curb some of the problem.

Frank said Maryvale already employs many state Education Department suggestions to reduce absenteeism and tardiness.

“I will say our follow-through is a little spotty in certain areas,” Frank added. “We can do more on educating parents on the importance of punctuality.”

Better communication with parents on enforcing attendance and punctuality – particularly how it impacts a student’s education – was encouraged.

Based on the committee’s recommendations, the board adjusted its attendance policy to draw greater attention to disciplinary action and academic consequences for chronic absenteeism and tardiness.

“Students and parents alike don’t like that threat of either disciplinary action or consequences academically,” Frank said.

Letters sent home and meetings with parents already take place after 10 and 15 absences, but that policy was extended to include tardiness.