A new study shows that attendance and grades in the first few years of school is a strong indicator of whether a child will go on to earn a high school diploma.
The Harvard study shows that in the south only about two-thirds of high schoolers earn diplomas. The study urges schools to focus more attention on grades K-4, looking at attendance and grades, making sure that those early warning signs are caught in time to deal with any problems while students are still young which will ensure higher graduation rates.
Part of learning is being in the classroom everyday, participating in activities, laying a foundation.
Dr. Woody Thompson, a system social worker with Thomas County Schools, says, "If they have a pattern of non-attendance, it begins a process of disengagement from school. If we can get kids connected to school and to come on a regular basis, when they're young, they're more than likely to continue that when they're older."
If attendance does become a problem, Dr. Thompson says that the schools try to find out what the underlying problem is and help support families and students.
Tammy Wooten, a counselor at Cross Creek Elementary, says, "We'll make phone calls home, we sometimes send letters home, we're very lucky to have a parent coordinator to make home visits."
These efforts help ensure that students are in the classroom learning the skills they need to succeed in school.
"The habits that are developed in the early elementary grades carry forth all the way through school and into an everyday work life," said Wooten.
They are habits that will lead students across a stage to receive their high school diplomas.
Dr. Thompson adds that the Thomas County schools offer incentives to students like attendance competitions between different grades and partnerships with community businesses.