By Mark Dyken

September is National School Attendance Awareness month. Students are back in class in our communities and around the country. Unfortunately, there are children who won’t be able to take full advantage of the opportunity our education system offers because they won’t be in class every day.

It’s important to note that every day missed is an opportunity lost that can never be made up. Whether an absence is excused or unexcused the result is the same – learning is disrupted.

Getting off to a good start is important. Research shows missing two to four days in the first month of school is an indicator of chronic absence for the rest of the year. Starting well in early grades is especially important as it builds good habits for a lifetime of learning.

Missing as little as two days a month can add up to a 10 percent absentee rate for the year. Studies show kindergarten and first graders who miss 10 percent of school days fall far behind their peers. By third grade only 15 percent of those students will be reading at grade level. By sixth grade chronic absence (10 percent or more) is a warning sign for dropping out of high school. By 9th grade, chronic absence is a better indicator of dropping out than 8th grade test scores.

It’s important for parents and school officials to send the same message – every day matters. When a day is missed it costs the student, the class, the school and ultimately all of us when kids don’t reach their potential or worse, drop out of school.

A study out of Northeastern University found that high school dropouts cost taxpayers $292,000 over the course of their lives. It’s not just about the money, though. Over 80 percent of incarcerated people are high school dropouts — making this an issue that truly impacts every member of the community.

Education is the key to a productive life and attendance is the key to a successful education. Make sure your children don’t get locked out of the opportunity to be their best – get them to school every day.

Mark Dyken is the Family Resource Center/Homeless and Foster Youth Liaison with the Jamestown School District/Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Office.