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Nichols Elementary sets good example in tackling truancy

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Whatever is being done at Nichols Elementary in Barboursville to encourage student attendance should be bottled and shared with other schools.

Among Cabell County's 27 schools, Nichols stands out as the one doing the best to keep truancy problems at a minimum. During the last semester, it was the only one of those schools to have no students register more than five unexcused absences, the point at which a student is considered truant. For comparison, only three other schools had fewer than 10 truancy cases, six others had fewer than 20 cases, while the rest had 20 or more. About half of the county's schools had 30 or more truancy cases.

Nichols' record so far this year isn't an aberration either. For all of the previous school year, only one of the school's students had more than five unexcused absences.

Various factors can play into a school's student attendance record, including whether it has relatively few students and the level of parents' involvement and commitment to seeing that their children make it to class.

In the case of Nichols Elementary, it appears that developing close relationships with students and parents, informing parents and students of expectations for good attendance, and persistence in seeing that potential truancy problems are addressed promptly combine to make a significant difference. Much of the credit goes to Principal Barbara Carlton, who has been known to go knock on doors and make wake-up calls to parents so that they would get their children to school.

Truancy issues have risen to the surface as a problem that leads to students' poor performance in schools and contributes to a high dropout rate. It has received considerably more attention from authorities in the past year, as it should.

But school officials could take some lessons from the perseverance by staff at Nichols Elementary as one way to address the problem.

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