Near the conclusion of Monday night’s Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Brad Pollitt presented the attendance report.
Currently district-wide the attendance rate is 89.6 percent, slightly below the desired 90/90 level.
The 90/90 policy, enacted three years ago as part of the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) School Improvement Plan, changed the way all public school districts are required to report attendance.
To meet the state’s standard, 90 percent of students must be in attendance 90 percent of the time.
It is a number that is difficult to obtain and many schools, including those in the Sedalia 200 district, offer incentive rewards to students and staff for their efforts to attend school daily.
“Effective teaching and learning cannot take place if the student and staff members are not in the classroom, “Pollitt said by phone Tuesday morning. “Every day a student misses school is a day the personal connection between the student and teacher is lost.
“One day always builds upon the next,” Pollitt added. “The content taught is difficult to make up once that time in the classroom is lost.”
Prior to the implementation of the 90/90 policy, if a student had 100 percent attendance and another had 80 percent the district could average the number to 90 percent.
The new reporting requirements do not allow for averaging of students’ attendance.
The district recognizes that there are times when a student simply cannot be in attendance, especially when students are sick and possibly contagious, or there are unavoidable occurrences such as a death in the family or a medical emergency.
One such incentive in several Sedalia elementary schools has been attendance reward assemblies where staff and administrators are put in fun and silly situations chosen by the students. On Tuesday, Skyline Elementary Principal Kelly McFatrich found herself a target in a dunk tank for the students’ most recent reward for Skyline having 97 percent of its students in class 90 percent of the time for 10 consecutive days.
“The No. 1 reason it is so important for students to be at school is because if they are not here, they are not learning,” McFatrich said. “A couple of minutes here and there can create hours because it all does add up and can make a difference.
“Students have to be here consistently to access the learning time,” she added.
Some district patrons have questioned the purpose of having students miss class time to attend an attendance assembly.
District administrators have a response for that comment.
“We want school to be a positive learning experience,” McFatrich said prior to entering the dunk tank. “A big part of that is having the students enjoy being here.
“Things like seeing their principal get dunked in a dunking booth or watching their teachers play a silly game really is an incentive for many of our students,” McFatrich explained. “We don’t spend a lot of money doing these assemblies and the PTOs throughout the district have been very generous if we do need something.
“Honestly, the students would rather see us play a game of human Foosball than they enjoy something like buying ice cream for them,” she added. “It helps them make memories they will always have and helps them want to come to school.”
Pollitt agreed that the reward assemblies do provide positive experiences for the district’s students.
“We have high expectations for all of our students, but those expectations extend beyond the lessons taught from textbooks,” he said. “We want to teach our students the importance of responsibility and becoming productive members of society.
“A large part of that is learning how to interact with others and how to make education fun each day,” he added. “These assemblies are a part of those learning opportunities.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.