OUR OPINION: A good start for school must include attendance

By NEMS Daily Journal

Thousands of Tupelo, Lee County and other Northeast Mississippi students return from summer vacation this week for the start of what’s traditionally called the “fall semester” of the 2011-2012 academic year.
About 14,000 pupils, from kindergarten through 12th grade, are expected for the first days of classes Thursday and Friday in the Lee County and Tupelo districts. Additional hundreds of students who are Lee County residents attend county line consolidated schools in Baldwyn and Nettleton, and several private schools enroll additional students.
All schools want and need a strong, positive start for the new academic year.
Teachers, staff members and administrators have been working for several weeks in many cases preparing for the new semester and particularly the opening days.
Teachers and administrators stress attendance from the start because the first day is a day of instruction, and if you miss the first day of school, you’re already behind.
The first day is the day you reconnect with your classmates and meet your teacher.
Many studies show that a first-day absence is more likely to be followed by extensive absenteeism, a liability for any student.
Statistically, poor attendance frequently translates directly into poor academic performance.
Most parents and every teacher understand that school attendance is important because it helps all children develop habits and disciplines for success in the rest of life.
Attendance habits are developed early, which places extra emphasis on kindergarten and early elementary children and their parents. Many studies have shown that children who have good attendance habits early in their school careers are more likely to continue those habits and are less likely to drop out.
Learning and teaching is based on carefully planned sequences of instruction, activities and participation, plus collaborative learning experiences. Children who miss those opportunities miss out on asking questions, a confidence builder and a sure way to improve understanding of what’s taught.
The importance of setting a positive tone at the beginning of a new school year cannot be stressed enough. Almost all students genuinely want to learn, despite protests about sizzling hot weather and the end of the summer break. Students almost always engage enthusiastically when lesson plans are carefully implemented, discipline is evenhandedly maintained, and success is measured and praised.
The teaching and learning process builds on itself; each new lesson builds on the previous one, which makes the beginning as important as the ending.
Success for every student is the goal, and good attendance, starting the first day of school, is the first cornerstone.