How do we turn around student absenteeism and build a culture of attendance in every school?

Posted by Te-Kai Shu | 02/09/13 8:45 am | Related: blog |

Coordinated School Health keeps Tennessee students in school and ready to learn
by Rebecca Craddock

Coordinated School Health/Communications, Bristol Tennessee City Schools
Communications Committee Chair, United Way of Bristol TN/VA


Does school attendance really matter? Absolutely! But, haven’t we all seen those students and families who don’t hesitate to keep children out of school for the tiniest of reasons yet the students seem to do okay academically? Yes, but those are the exceptions. Studies show that students who have a high rate of absences (as early as kindergarten) make lower grades and have an increased risk of dropping out of high school compared to their classmates with regular attendance.

Think about it. Not only do children lose ground academically when they are frequently absent, but when children miss school unnecessarily, they are not taught the value of education, dependability and honoring commitments. This affects their success throughout school and later in their work lives.


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 There are many strategies schools can (and do) implement to improve attendance. In my opinion, the state of Tennessee is on the right track with state-wide implementation of Coordinated School Health (CSH). CSH is designed to create and sustain a healthy school environment so that students receive a coordinated system of comprehensive support. It addresses non-academic barriers to student learning through coordinating services in eight areas: health education, physical education, health services, counseling/psychological/social services, nutrition, school environment, staff wellness, and family/community involvement. Each of these eight components of CSH have direct ties to attendance and achievement. A student must be healthy physically, mentally and socially to attend school and perform academically.

Traditional education reforms have not succeeded in improving the performance of all students, particularly those who do not arrive at school ready to learn. CSH encourages healthy lifestyles, provides needed support to at-risk students and helps reduce the prevalence of health-related problems that impair academic success. CSH in Tennessee schools has resulted in many advances for students. Here are just a few:

  • Numerous community partnerships have been formed to provide resources to at-risk students and families (many of those partnerships are with United Way agencies)
  • More students are at a healthy weight
  • Access to health care services has improved
  • Students have increased opportunity to physical activity during the day
  • Access to health education has increased for students


Again, children must be healthy physically, mentally and socially to attend school regularly and be ready to learn. Numerous studies have shown this connection between CSH, attendance and academic achievement. In a 2012 Kids Count report published by the Annie E. Casey foundation, which assesses the well-being of children nationwide and state by state, Tennessee ranked 36th overall in child well-being. This ranking was based on four domains. However in one of those domains, child health, Tennessee ranked 16th. Many state officials give credit to Tennessee’s commitment to children through CSH. Furthermore, according to the latest assessment data released from the state, Tennessee scores increased for the majority of school districts in almost every subject (2013 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results). One conclusion: a focus on health alongside academics results in greater student achievement! Just ask Tennessee!

For more information about Tennessee’s Coordinated School Health initiative, go to

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