Every school day counts in a child’s academic life


In Westport, attendance levels better than state average

By Carolyn Pontes

Westport Middle School assistant principal

A missed school day is a lost opportunity for a child to learn. The public education system is based on the assumption that students regularly attend school. Although teacher effectiveness is the strongest school-related determinant of student success, chronic student absence reduces even the best teacher’s ability to provide learning opportunities. Students who attend school regularly have been shown to achieve at higher levels than students who do not have regular attendance. Research on school attendance shows that low absenteeism is directly correlated to a students positive school behavior, participation in extracurricular activities, higher grades, and long term educational outcomes.  

Truancy has become a major problem in our country today. It is rated among the major problems facing schools.  It can be the beginning of a lifetime of problems for students who routinely skip school. Students often fall behind in their school work, and it is easier to drop out than catch up. Students who are out on a regular basis are more likely to get into trouble with the law as well as cause problems in their community.

Often, parental neglect is a cause of truancy. Some parents of chronically absent students either do not value education or simply find it easier to keep their child home as opposed to doing the morning routine. Due to frustration involved with these issues, many communities are fighting back and bringing families to court. This can result in the removal of a child from his or her home, which is traumatic for everyone involved.

Attending school on a regular basis matters. Chronic absenteeism is a key driver of the nation’s achievement, high school graduation, and college attainment gaps.  The Westport School System has been monitoring attendance very diligently. By measuring and monitoring absenteeism, we can put plans into place for students to improve their attendance rates. Students who are continuous offenders of the attendance policy receive letters initially, and if their school attendance doesn’t improve, it is reported to the court system.

The Westport Community School’s attendance rate average for the 2011-2012 school year was 95.1 percent. The state average for the same year was 94.9 percent.


Chris Higgins teaching and the students are Reilly Cusick, Kylie Cooper, Mary McGuill, and Sydney Oliveira.








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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.