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A joint message from the DESE Commissioner and the Superintendent

Dear Families,

We are writing to invite you to join your school, your district, and the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in a campaign to improve student attendance.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a lot of routines, including the habit of going to school every day. We know that there are often valid reasons for students to be absent, but, to a troubling extent, students are missing more school now than they did previously. Before the pandemic, 13 percent of students were chronically absent, meaning they had missed 10 percent or more of the school year. Last year, 22 percent of students – close to 1 in 4 statewide – were chronically absent.

Missing that much school – 18 days or more from a typical school year – can cause a child to fall behind in their learning and miss opportunities to build positive relationships with other students and with school staff. These losses may result in increased anxiety and interrupted social and emotional development.

Chronic absenteeism appears in every type of district – urban, suburban, rural, regional, traditional public schools, career technical schools, charter schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

Many research studies have concluded that regardless of family income or background, students whose parents are involved in their schooling are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school. We want all our students to have the opportunity to achieve all of these things.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is committed to supporting your district as it works to ensure that every school is safe, welcoming, and supportive, with engaging and creative instruction and joyful classrooms. Your district and schools are committed to partnering with you to find ways to remove any barriers that may be hindering any child from coming to school every day. We are asking you to commit to making daily school attendance part of your family’s routine again. As a leader of your family, you are the best and most important influencer of your child. When you make a point of getting them to school every day, they will understand that it is important for their success.

None of us can change chronic absenteeism by ourselves, but we believe that by working together to bring students to school and offering engaging, supportive environments, our students will learn, grow, and thrive.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season,

Jeffrey Riley, Commissioner                                                                     Lori Duerr, Superintendent
Massachusetts Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education              Falmouth Public Schools