Administrators caution against 'chronic absences' in Wauwatosa School District

Nov. 12, 2014

With cool temperatures and the cold season around the corner, administrators at Jefferson Elementary School reminded parents of the importance of consistent attendance in a November newsletter.

The article stated that starting in kindergarten, too many absences can cause children to fall behind in school, and that 10 percent, or about 18 days, of missed school can make it harder for students to learn to read.

The Wauwatosa School District had an attendance rate of 95.6 percent for 2012-13, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Data is not available for 2013-14. Greendale School District showed the highest attendance rate for 2012-13 with 96.3 percent.

Chronic absence is characterized by 18 or more days, warning signs are between 10 and 17 days, and good attendance is nine or fewer absences, according to

"The instructor is the most important thing in a child's academic career. They are missing that instruction," said Dean Nemoir, principal at Jefferson. "We are always trying to find new ways to make sure students are in attendance."

The habitual truancy rate in the Wauwatosa district was 4 percent in 2012-13, or 269 habitually truant students out off 6,810. The highest truancy rate was in the St. Francis district with 14.8 percent.

"This is not 'gotcha' — it's what can we do to help. What can we do to make this better? Is there something behind this that we can help you out with?" said Dean Heus, supervisor of student support services in the district office.

Reasons for chronic absence can vary for students from illness to vacation, transportation issues and other home-life barriers, said Nemoir.

Heus said it is not uncommon for administration to unearth more serious reasons for some students' habitual absence or truancy.

When asked why some families might not come forward with that kind of information, Heus said: "I think some of it can be mistrust or a feeling that they might be stigmatized. Or maybe they're new to the district. I'm biased, but I feel like school is an open, helpful place, and sometimes people haven't experienced that in schools."

He added, "Let's be open to being problem solvers versus problem finders."


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