Be Here Get There – Seattle’s new attendance campaign will help students succeed

By Mayor Mike McGinn

Children are part of our shared destiny, and we’ll have a better destiny if we help our children succeed. That means improving education in Seattle has to be a top priority for all of us. The first step is to make sure our students are attending school.

Most people don’t realize that missing as few as three days of school is strongly associated with lower student achievement. Missing ten days of school is a strong predictor that a student will eventually drop out and leave school for good before they reach graduation. It doesn’t matter whether it is a vacation, suspension or a truancy. (But students should stay home when they’re sick).

If children miss extended periods of school in their first years, they are unlikely to learn to read by the third grade. Students who do not read by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out than those students who are proficient in reading.

Chronic absence increases as a student gets older especially if they are already struggling academically. In 2009, 10% of elementary school students in Seattle School District missed 18 or more days of school, 20% of middle school students missed 18 or more days, and 25% of high school students missed 18 or more days.
The school district knows this is a problem. They are focusing on it this year. But they cannot help students be successful if the students are not even in school.

It is not just the school district’s problem. It’s not just a parent’s problem. It’s not just our teachers’ problem. It’s everyone’s problem.

The future of our city is only as bright as the future of the children we are raising here. We all share a destiny.

There’s something we can do about this right now. This week, the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools, the Alliance for Education, and Get Schooled are launching “Be Here. Get There.” It is a campaign designed to raise awareness and improve academic achievement by improving citywide school attendance.

We will soon launch competitions at schools and classrooms across Seattle to get students energized to go to school. School attendance can be tracked on the campaign website, allowing students at schools across the city to see how they compare. You can learn more about our attendance campaign at http://getschooled.com/Seattle.

“Be Here. Get There.” is more than just a mayor’s office initiative. It’s a community initiative.
We are reaching out to local businesses for help with incentives to keep kids in school. We are reaching out to parents to make sure they know how important attendance is. We are reaching out to kids, to spread the word about the campaign and blog about their experiences online.

We are also reaching out to celebrities like NBA player Jamal Crawford and hip hop artist Wiz Khalifa, who have agreed to use their influence to encourage kids to get to school every day. They have already agreed to record wake-up calls as part of the campaign.

And we are reaching out to every single member of our community to step up and say “this is my problem too.” If you see a child on the street, on the bus or in your business, you need to ask them – “why aren’t you in school today?”

As a community, we cannot assume this is none of our business and turn away from the problem. Every one of our students needs to be in school every single day. If they’re not , that’s everybody’s business.
We’re all in this together. Seattle will only succeed, and compete in a global economy, if our kids are prepared for college or career when they leave school.

So make sure the kids in your life know that they have your support. There are resources out there to help them overcome the barriers that are keeping them away from class. Reach out to your local school or my office if you need help.

We can do this, but we have to do it together.

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