The Importance of Attendance

  • Academics
Corey Sampson

As our Head of School, Kristina Scala, is fond of saying: “the world is run by those who show up and hustle.” What this implies is that the first step is to show up. Getting to school is paramount to success in school. We know this fact to be true, but I think it is important to examine more specific facts about attendance from the non-profit Attendance Works.

  • Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade or need to be held back.1

  • Research shows that missing 10-percent of school days, or about 18 days in most school districts, negatively affects a student’s academic performance. That’s just two days a month and that’s known as chronic absence.1

  • When students improve their attendance rates, they improve their academic prospects.1

We, of course, know and understand that absences do occur. Illness, high school shadow days, extraordinary family opportunities. We would never want a student to come to school sick, miss out on making the right choice for high school, or miss seeing her Nana on her 100th birthday.  

We also know however, that absences, whether excused or unexcused (not sure what that even looks like in elementary and middle school) have natural consequences.  It is important to understand those consequences so we can work to minimize them when they do occur. 

Two areas that it is important to recognize natural consequences are: 

1. Correlation between missing class and the grade in the class

As an adult, when you miss a shift for an hourly job or if you miss above your allotted PTO for a salary job you have a lower paycheck, the same is true in school. If 10 percent of a unit is missed we generally see a 10 percent drop in the grade. So if your kid is a 100%, straight a student, then missing 2 days in a 4 week unit will drop the students grade to about a 90%. Twenty-percent absence rate generally results in a 20% drop in the unit grade and that is only 4 days for a 4 week unit. It happens that quickly. 

2. A 20 minute meeting before or after school with the teacher does not equate to a missed class

Try as we might as teachers, and we are good at it, it is impossible to cram in an 80 minute class into 20 minutes. If the lesson or class could be 20 minutes and be equally effective, then it would be a 20 minute lesson. If the student needs to come see the teacher to learn what they missed, it is not going to be the same level of instruction the other students received in-class. Students who miss class also miss discussion, hearing other students’ questions, and crowd-sourcing knowledge that occurs in a group setting. They get the information, but there is so much more to learning than just receiving the key facts about a lesson.  

Of course, seeing a teacher before you go on the family ski trip, getting notes, making up the work a student missed and seeing the teacher when a student gets back to school can and does help, but students are operating from a hole. We all want to set our students up for success, with the best chance to learn and that begins with “showing up.” 


1. Source: “10 Facts About School Attendance”, 2018. 

About the Author

Corey Sampson is Middle School Director at Aspen Academy. He taught Social Sciences at international and private schools for 13 years prior to becoming our Director and earned his principal licensure from Fort Hays State University. Before teaching, he was involved with a variety of nonprofits working on social and political issues. He loves Aspen because of the community: the families, the students, and the teachers here make this school unlike any other school he has worked at.

Corey loves to travel with his wife and experience the world. He has been to 6 continents and has lived and worked in 4 of them. If anyone has a trip planned to Antarctica, let him know.