TUPELO – A new state law changing the way schools count attendance will not have a significant impact on the Tupelo Public School District this year, its officials said.
This is the first year students have to be present for 63 percent of their academic day to be counted toward the school’s average daily attendance. Previously students were counted if they were present during the morning.
A school’s average daily attendance is used as part of the state’s formula to determine how much funding it receives. The ADA figures for October and November are particularly important, but so is the number for the entire year.
Trying to prevent a large drop in attendance during those two months, the district had an awareness campaign on the importance of students being in school. It requested parents to not check out students early, unless absolutely necessary. Schools used various incentives to reward students for not missing time in school.
That campaign was a success, Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon said during last week’s school board meeting. Last year, the school district had an average daily attendance of 95.51 percent during October and November. This year, it was 95.12 percent during those months.
“I was really pleased with the ADA for the first semester,” Dillon said. “I attribute that to the hard work of administrators, teachers and parents showing the importance of being at school each and every day.
“It is important to understand with the new 63 percent rule that was a major shift not only from the schools’ perspective, but from the parents’ perspective as well.”
It is too early to tell what impact the law will have statewide, Dillon said, but early conversations indicate many districts are seeing a one- to two-percentage point drop in ADA, he said.
“We understand there are certain events that can’t be helped, but the 63 percent rule or not, we want our students in the classroom so they don’t miss out on great instruction,” Dillon said.
Meanwhile, the district’s overall enrollment is down from last year. The district had 7,022 students in kindergarten through 12th grade during the first semester, down from 7,208 during the previous school year and from 7,274 during the 2011-12 school year.
Dillon attributes the drop to the district more strictly enforcing its residency requirements.