Being there is key to success at school | Superintendent Nancy Coogan

It’s almost time for school to start! This is one of the most exciting times of the year for me.

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016 7:13pm
  • Opinion

It’s almost time for school to start! This is one of the most exciting times of the year for me. Classrooms and hallways are gleaming. Educators are reinvigorated with fresh ideas and energy. Many of us have been in the midst of deep planning and training over the summer months, and now it’s almost time to put that into action with students. Best of all, there are still a few weeks left of beautiful Pacific Northwest sunshine to enjoy with families and friends before all the action begins. It’s wonderful anticipation!

For this school year, I am calling on all of us – businesses, community members, civic organizations, families, students, staff – to help us focus on one major campaign –attendance. We need students to be present and on time each school day (barring sickness or emergencies) if they are going to be successful, and we need your help to make this happen.

First, a few key pieces of information I want you to remember.

School starts on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Yes, even the first day of school is extremely important for attendance; it sets the tone for the entire year. Please make sure your family is back from vacation and ready to go that first week. One more time: School starts Tuesday, Sept. 6. See you then.

Secondly, keep this in mind throughout the school year – two days. Just two missed days of school per month puts your child on track to be chronically absent from school. A chronically absent student is one who misses 18 days (10 percent of the school year) or more, whether the absences are excused or not. The reality is that an absence is an absence, no matter for what reason, and that child is not in the classroom benefiting from solid, classroom instruction.

The research is clear. Chronic absenteeism is a reliable early warning indicator of academic struggle, whether a student is in kindergarten or high school. Children who miss excessive schooling in kindergarten and first-grade often struggle to read proficiently by the end of third grade. By the end of sixth-grade, chronic absenteeism is a key predictor that a student will drop out of high school. We must do better. It just makes sense; children can’t learn if they are not in class. Attendance counts, every day for every student.

At the family level, please make school attendance a priority. To do this well, you can:

• Talk to your child about the importance of attending school every day—make that the expectation.

• Help your child maintain daily routines. This includes getting a good night’s sleep in order to be well rested for learning the following day.

• Avoid medical appointments and extended trips when possible while school is in session.

• Check on your child’s attendance frequently. Ask for assistance from school officials if you’re having trouble getting your student to school. We are here to assist.

As an entire community, we can also make a difference. Tukwila children belong to us all, and when we come together to look after their well-being and education, we thrive together. We are partnering with the city to get first-responders and officials into schools to emphasize and reward good attendance.

We are going to prepare packets for businesses and organizations with flyers featuring positive attendance messages to advertise the importance of attendance as well as information about how to support all students. As an entire community, I hope that we can continually check in with our young people to encourage them to be at school every day to promote their learning.

Working together, we can build a culture of attendance knowing the importance of students being in school, engaging them every day to ensure they have the best opportunity to succeed in Tukwila, but also nationally.

Showing up is the first step to success. I greatly appreciate your help with this effort. This makes a difference in the lives of our students knowing that their attendance provides opportunity and choice for their future.

Tukwila School Superintendent Nancy Coogan can be reached at 206-901-8006 or at



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