Where, Oh Where, Are My Seniors?

I keep watch of our attendance figures and pay attention to trends from year to year. As a district, our overall yearly attendance percentage is relatively consistent. The elementary and middle school averaging around 95% each month, with our 9-12 building averaging between 91-94%. Change is incremental when watching attendance. I want to make enough of a difference in climate that attendance increases.

Here’s the part that has me fried today. We’ve made significant improvements in grades 9-11 for every month this year, but our Seniors are making me crazy! Their attendance was as low as 86.58% in November, while our freshmen and sophomores were each up to at least 94%.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, we have an attendance policy with negative consequences for frequent absences to include loss of credit in a class for 25 days missed in the year. We conduct positive school wide programs to encourage attendance and we work really hard to create a caring, supportive environment where students want to come here.

I’m frustrated because I’m at a loss in problem solving this issue. I’ve read the literature, I’ve tried different approaches, and still our attendance for seniors is down 2.63% in December and 4.41% in November. Even if I compare to the senior class of 2004, prior to my arrival, this year’s class is still down in October and November, lower than any senior class in the past four years. How do I turn that around?

Why do I care? Because currently our senior guidance counselor is meeting with seniors who have done little to nothing in some classes, possibly add in poor attendance, and will fail courses by January’s end that precludes them from graduating. They know they’ve done nothing–it shouldn’t come as a shock, and yet they’ll be frustrated and upset at the news that a diploma is not happening.

Seniors who read G-Town Talks, I know you’re not many and you probably don’t fall into these categories, but please realize that poor attendance and lack of effort have dire circumstances for your peers. I really want to give every one of you a diploma on June 22, but you have to earn it first. Your Gowanda High School diploma means something, it’s earned, not given away. Show up here and participate. Please.

  1. I am finding a similar frustration with this years’ senior class. It seems like those students who are attending are only going through the motions. Students that I have had in the past, and have worked hard for me, are now doing NOTHING! While trying to prepare them for a state test, most completed maybe 1 out of the 6 practice exams assigned. There is no way that they are prepared enough to be successful on this exam. They complain about not understand material in class, yet I have 1 student who consistently does their homework. I’m at my wits end with them. And tired of hear their excuses that they have too many outside commitments. I’m hoping that their lack of success on this state exam will serve as a eye opening experience that they really need to not only be in attendance at school, but “show up” every day. Being there is only a start.

  2. Kim, you have done so much for this school! General attendance has increased. I remember seeing two pages of absences! I know you care about all the students here and it really shows, so don’t beat yourself up over those few. Do what you can, as I know you will, but take pride in knowing that many have already been helped by you!

  3. You might try inviting them into your office or better yet going to where they are and being present with them and to them. Chances are many of them are frightened. It might not seem that way, but maybe they realize that they are leaving the comfortable confines of GHS and their reaction is to remove themselves from your community. Being present to them is more than talking to them. It’s more like “deep” listening. It will take some time for this, but I think it’ll be worth it for you and it will definitley be worth it for them. I really enjoy reading your blog. You are a bright light. Keep shining.

  4. Sometimes it’s tough to convince some that inaction and failure to fulfill duties has consequences until they have things literally stripped from them. I hope all of your seniors who need to realize this do before they’re unable to receive a diploma this year, but even if that does happen, it may be the wake-up call those individuals need.

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