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GCSS attendance campaign sees success in early stages, with improvement at all levels

April 22, 2024

Greensboro, Ga. – The Greene County School System has successfully begun an attendance campaign this year to address a chronic absenteeism challenge that has affected schools locally and across the nation since the COVID-19 Pandemic. Comparing Fall 2022 to Fall 2023, Greene County Schools saw the percentage of chronically absent students decrease at every school, by 6% at Greene County Primary School, 11% at Carson Middle School, and 4% at Greene County High School. This concerted effort to improve attendance has involved staff at all levels of each school and the district office. 

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of the school year (18 days per year, about 2 days each school month in Greene County) for any reason, including but not limited to both excused and unexcused absences and disciplinary suspension from school. Chronic absenteeism refers to a particular student’s attendance for an entire school year and is different from Average Daily Attendance. 

Average Daily Attendance refers to the percentage of students who are present at school on any given day. The GCSS Average Daily Attendance for March 2024 was 94.3% at Greene County Primary School, 93.6% at Carson Middle School, and 87.6% at Greene County High School.

While chronic absenteeism has been a problem for many years in the United States, the problem was exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. An analysis of 12 states from all regions of the country showed an average chronic absenteeism rate of 26% in the 2022-23 school year, up from an average of 14% pre-pandemic in the 2018-19 school year. 

The GCSS 5-Year Strategic Plan sets forth goals to address chronic absenteeism, including reducing the number of students absent more than 10% of enrolled days and decreasing the number of days students miss as a result of disciplinary suspension. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rotonya Rhodes formed a district Attendance Committee with staff from departments across the district office, school staff such as counselors and teachers, and community partners such as local family nonprofits, faith leaders, and the business community. 

“The Attendance Committee’s work focuses on identifying and addressing barriers to school attendance; educating parents, students, and the community about the importance of school attendance; and refining the processes for support and intervention when a student is at risk of becoming chronically absent,” Dr. Rhodes stated.

In addition to a targeted communications campaign to students and parents emphasizing the importance and benefits of attending school and the risks that chronic absenteeism poses to a student’s path to educational success, the GCSS Attendance Committee surveyed students about their reasons for attending school and missing school. 73% of GCHS students reported that they attend because they think education is important, dispelling the false belief that students are apathetic toward school. 

The attendance campaign also included collaboration with local community partners, especially local businesses that employ high school students, for partnership in distributing information about good attendance to students and their families, as well as engaging a variety of perspectives on how to address chronic absenteeism. 

“Everyone has a role to play in getting our children to school,” Dr. Rhodes said. “We are grateful for our community partners’ involvement in our efforts to improve attendance and look forward to further collaboration as this initiative continues.” 

The Attendance Committee sought student buy-in for the attendance campaign through friendly rivalry in the spring semester. In February, schools held competitions among the grade levels in each building, with prizes for best attendance, and in March, schools competed against each other in a district-wide attendance competition for greatest improvement, with Carson Middle School taking home the prize of a schoolwide attendance celebration for all its students.

While overall results for spring 2024 attendance are still pending and will not be official until the end of the school year, the first half of the school year saw improvement from the previous fall at every school. Chronic absenteeism decreased at GCPS from 21% in Fall 2022 to 15% in Fall 2023, from 20% in Fall 2022 to 9% in Fall 2023 at CMS, and from 31% in Fall 2022 to 27% in Fall 2023 at GCHS.