Attendance is a critical factor in the success of high school students, especially in public schools. It’s not just about being physically present; it’s about the importance of seat time, which refers to the time a student spends in the classroom.

Chronic absenteeism is a national challenge. While chronic absenteeism was a problem before COVID-19, the pandemic has exasperated the issue. In the July 7, 2023, Washington Post opinion article “A surge in absentee students might require a radical rethink of schools,” the national chronic absenteeism rate was estimated at 33%. This directly impacts students’ ability to graduate with their high school diploma.

As a High School Principal, I had multiple conversations with students concerning their attendance. While most of the students’ attendance improved, unfortunately, several students’ attendance didn’t improve, and they did not graduate with their classmates.

Whenever I think about chronic absenteeism, one student always comes to mind. The student was a brilliant young person on track to graduate until they started spending time with a group of older relatives. As a result, their attendance became a problem. While the student could maintain the minimum grade point average to graduate, they didn’t meet the required seat time. So, they had to make up time over the summer, which impacted the student’s scholarships and admission into college.

So, let’s discuss why attendance and seat time matter:

Attendance isn’t just a routine obligation; it’s a fundamental aspect that shapes a student’s educational journey. The significance of attendance extends beyond the classroom, influencing academic success, high school credit attainment, and long-term personal development.

  • Academic Achievement: Regular attendance is a cornerstone of academic achievement. Students who attend school consistently have a higher chance of excelling academically. Being present in class allows them to grasp essential concepts and participate actively.
  • High School Credit: Attending classes provides the necessary seat time for high school credit. This seat time is crucial for students to progress and earn the credits needed for graduation.
  • Student Success: Chronic absenteeism can harm a student’s education and future prospects.

Attending classes imparts knowledge and fulfills the seat time requirement for high school credits, a vital step toward graduation. So, how important is seat time for high school credit?

  • Credit Requirement: Public schools often have credit requirements for graduation. Seat time ensures that students meet these requirements by engaging in coursework.
  • Knowledge Acquisition: Seat time offers students valuable time to acquire knowledge, engage with teachers, and build a solid educational foundation.

Proactive measures like parental involvement, positive reinforcement, and early intervention can effectively enhance attendance rates. So, let’s dive into a few of these strategies to improve attendance:

  • Parental Involvement: Encourage parents to actively participate in their child’s education by monitoring attendance and communicating with teachers.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Recognize and reward students with good attendance records, fostering a positive attitude towards school.
  • Early Intervention: Identify attendance issues early and support students facing challenges, ensuring they don’t fall behind.
  • Engaging Curriculum: Develop engaging and relevant curricula to motivate students to attend school regularly.
  • Community Involvement: Engage the community to support and emphasize the importance of school attendance.

Ultimately, recognizing the holistic impact of attendance underscores the need for collaborative efforts to ensure every student’s consistent presence in the learning environment. Attendance matters significantly for public school students. It impacts their academic success and plays a vital role in meeting high school credit requirements.

Beyond academics, school attendance also contributes to a student’s social and emotional development. It allows them to form friendships, engage in extracurricular activities, and develop essential life skills.

Implementing strategies to improve attendance can enhance student outcomes, ensuring they are well-prepared for future endeavors.

Malcolm X said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Students must prioritize attendance to maximize their educational opportunities and set themselves up for a bright future.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent those of my employer or any local, state, or federal government.

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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.