FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 19, 2013) -- Keeping a school-age child at home when they have a runny nose or because Family is visiting from out of town may seem harmless enough, but when these occasional absences add up it affects everyone from teachers, the child, other students and even the school as a whole.

In order to promote student success, the Department of Defense Education Activity has implemented an attendance policy to set the standard of expectation for student attendance, and has recently created a new brochure to educate everyone on the importance of school attendance, said Christy Cabezas, district superintendent.

"We are fortunate in the fact that we have very few concerns with excessive unexcused absences and tardiness in our Fort Rucker schools," she said. "However, there are those occasional extended absences that may be excused or unexcused."

The Department of Defense school system has a policy that permits up to five absences, whether excused or unexcused, per semester. Students are required to attend 180 days of school per year. Excessive school absence is defined as seven or more absences, whether excused or unexcused, or five tardies during a semester as defined by DODEA policy.

Excused absences include, but are not limited to, unique Family circumstances, religious holidays, doctor appointments, deployments or severe illnesses.

"Research shows that excessive absences can negatively impact student achievement," said Cabezas. "Attending classes . . . affords (students) an opportunity to learn more and to acquire stronger cognitive skills, which increases their level of academic achievement.

"In fact, studies have shown that students who attend more school days per year learn more and perform better academically, as measured by achievement tests," she added.

Students who develop strong academic skills in their early years are more confident in their abilities, perform better in higher grade levels, and increase their likelihood that they will graduate from high school and college, according to the superintendent.

"And, ultimately, students with stronger intellectual skills and academic credentials have more opportunities for obtaining good, satisfying, well-paying jobs," she said.

Since attendance is a factor that impacts student achievement, it was embedded as a goal under School Excellence in the DODEA Community Strategic Plan, which can be found on the DODEA web site at

"The district has reviewed the DODEA attendance policy and, importantly, has developed a protocol and set of procedures for identifying excessive absenteeism early, and then taking concrete steps and measures to help Families to get their children to attend school," she said.

A high attendance rate is also important for Fort Rucker schools as a whole because it is a factor that contributes to a positive school climate and environment. And Cabezas said that a positive school climate increases the comfort level and motivation of students, parents and teachers.

Because Fort Rucker children are Family members of one or two military members, their learning experience is different, but Cabezas assures that DODEA understands the importance of students attending school while supporting the military-connected Family.

"Students may transition school systems several times throughout their school career and/or several times in one school year. The DODEA schools are cognizant of this and work with military Families to promote the smoothest transition from one location to another," she said.

The actual transferring of Families is one cause of missed school days, she added, along with parents who are coming and going on deployments, parents' days off and distant training.

"Students also take time when parents return from a deployment. This, too, is an important time for our military Families and DODEA schools recognize the importance of this time," she added.

The attendance brochure, school websites, open house meetings, school board meetings, and student and parent handbooks are all ways officials have communicated the DODEA attendance policy, and the steps that they take to support Fort Rucker students, Families and schools with meeting the attendance goal.

"It is our intent to be transparent, provide continuous support and communicate through multiple measures with all of our stakeholders," said Cabezas.

For more information concerning school attendance at Fort Rucker Elementary School or Fort Rucker Primary School, call 255-1607 or 255-2822.

Page last updated Thu September 19th, 2013 at 13:24