Attendance Matters: TASD Places Emphasis on School Attendance


Todd Cammarata

The American Eagle Paper Mill is one of the many businesses that indicate that good attendance is one thing they are looking for in new employees. Here former Tyrone superintendent Cathy Harlow (second from left), teacher math teacher Chris Shedd, acting Superintendent Lesile Estep, and business teacher Angela Kline discuss the paper making process.

For many Tyrone High School teachers and administrators the importance of school attendance came into clear focus last year when, as part of a grant project, they visited local businesses and spoke with employers about what they look for in new employees.

Teachers were surprised that over and over, the issue of attendance, not academics, communication skills, or critical thinking, came up as the biggest challenge for young employees and their employers.

Employers want students to know that attendance matters. If students aren’t in school they’re not reaping the benefits of school

— Acting Superintendent Leslie Estep

“Employers want students to know that attendance matters,” said Tyrone Area School District Acting Superintendent Leslie Estep. “If students aren’t in school they’re not reaping the benefits of school.”

They are also not building the habit of good attendance that they will need to be successful in the workplace.

Officials from American Eagle Paper, Kunzler Meats, Gardner’s Candies, and DelGrosso’s Park all highlighted employee attendance as one of their biggest challenges.

There is a lot of evidence that attendance habits that are made in school move with students throughout their work lives.

As early as sixth grade, studies show that school attendance is a better predictor of graduation than test scores. Studies have also shown that students who miss 10% of the school year or more are much less likely to succeed academically, are more likely to be suspended, and more likely to drop out.

As a result, Tyrone Area High School is focusing heavily on attendance this year with a new “Attendance Matters” campaign and several policy changes in the student handbook to require better student attendance.

One of the major changes to policy is that students may miss a maximum of fifteen days of school. This is down from the previous policy that allowed 25 absences before students would lose academic credit.  Absences can be excused through parents/guardian notes, medical excuses, or they can be unlawful/unexcused. All absences after twelve days will need a physician’s excuse.

Some other notable changes are that students are now only permitted to take five days off for family educational trips, and excuses must be turned in within three days or else they will be unlawful/unexcused. If students miss ten consecutive days they will be taken off of active student roles unless they can provide evidence that the absences are legal.

These changes will not impact most students, but it will be a big change for a significant minority of students who have had previous attendance problems.

“Some students will really have to tighten their belt,” said Tyrone Area School District Social Worker Molly Stroup.

According to Stroup, chronic absenteeism is any student who misses 18 days or more, or 10% of the school year.

“That comes down to just two days per month,” said Stroup.

The effort to improve attendance is not just happening in Tyrone. The district is partnering with the Blair County Healthy Coalition, the Blair County United Way and the Blair County Attendance Task Force to focus attention on improved attendance, a top priority for all districts in the county this year.

I believe that this change to the student handbook is great because it will help us later in life when we are trying to hold a steady job

— Senior Chris Wilkins

The county-wide “Be There” attendance campaign will run throughout the school year. The campaign includes announcements, phone calls, and motivational posters. These describe the benefits of good attendance and its connection to employer expectations.

One thing that the administration wants students and parents to understand is that if a student is sick they should not come to school.

“We’re not telling parents to send your kids when they have a 104° fever,” said Stroup.

However, if it is a student’s birthday or they are going to an activity that is not school related, they should not miss school. All of these reasons could lead to a student developing chronic absenteeism.

The student reaction to this change is generally impartial because most students do not fall into category of chronically absent. Some students think that this change is a positive thing for the school.

“I believe that this change to the student handbook is great because it will help us later in life when we are trying to hold a steady job,” said senior Chris Wilkins.