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Wilson: Studies show — students need to get to school
Josh Wilson, PhD
Josh Wilson, PhD, Monroe High School Associate Principal

As students of the School District of Monroe enjoy their first weeks of summer break, teachers and administrators take time to consider the successes of the 2023-2024 school year while reflecting on opportunities for growth as we look to 2024-2025. Although we have a lot to be proud of as a school district, we are not complacent. One important area for the District’s continued improvement is addressing student attendance and chronic absenteeism. 

At Monroe, we hope to graduate students who are successful in their future careers. Establishing good attendance at an early grade has been shown to have a number of positive outcomes for students as they move through their K-12 education and beyond. The best efforts by teachers in reaching students can be significantly hampered by student absenteeism. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), a student is truant if they miss part or all of the school day without a valid excuse. A student is habitually truant if they miss all or part of five days without a valid excuse in one marking period such as a trimester or semester. The DPI continues to state that “students are to be considered chronically absent if they miss more than 10% of school days out of the total number of school days during which they are enrolled.” 

For students who are often absent from school, the consequences can be significant and may include fines, mandatory court appearances, and a revocation of a driver’s license and work permit. In some situations, the District may pursue habitual truancy measures which can result in additional court actions and fines. State law further dictates that a student may not have more than 10 excused absences per school year. Further, school attendance is calculated as a component of the district report card issued by DPI and is an area where we can make positive strides. Would an employer continue to hold a position for someone who would be considered truant by the attendance standards outlined by the DPI?

The benefits of good school attendance have been well-documented. An article published in the academic journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2020 by professors Christopher A. Learner, David Heyne, and Carolina Gonzálvez found that, “children who attend school regularly, and adolescents who complete high school, are more likely to experience better quality of life and achieve greater success at social, academic, occupational, and other aspects of functioning during their lifespan than youth who receive little education. School attendance is thus a key foundational competency for young people.” 

There is a long-established link between positive school attendance in elementary school and improved social, behavioral, and academic outcomes as a child moves through middle and high school. Additionally, a study published in the academic journal Cogent Education in 2021 further emphasized that positive attendance in high school is a strong predictor of academic success at the post-secondary level. A report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that those who do not finish high school earn less money than those who finished high school. A study conducted in 2007 by researchers Clive Belfield and Henry Levin found that a high school graduate will, on average, earn over $270,000 more over the course of their lifetime than someone who did not finish their high school education. Adjusted for 2024, that potential income would be over $438,000. That is nearly half a million dollars that could be invested into retirement accounts, saved for future expenditures, or spent locally in supporting businesses in the area. Now is the time for students to attend school regularly and make a commitment to invest in themselves and their future.

Over the course of nearly 20 years in education, I have worked with many teachers, administrators, and staff members and I know that we are lucky to have an incredible group of educators in Monroe who are devoted to supporting all students. I see the concerted effort that goes into improving learning experiences and outcomes for our students. Our strongest ally in supporting positive attendance and helping all students reach their potential are the parents and guardians of our students. At the School District of Monroe, we want every student to graduate from MHS and be successful, contributing members of our community and beyond. As we move closer to the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year, I urge all parents and guardians to speak candidly with your students about school attendance. Remind them of the importance of attending school regularly and the benefits that come with regular attendance such as stronger connections to the school community, improved academic performance, and increased likelihood for graduation. 

If you are concerned about your child’s attendance at any time, contact an administrator directly at your child’s school. At the high school and middle school, associate principals are charged with addressing student attendance. At the elementary level, school attendance is handled by building principals. School administrators will do their best to work with parents and guardians to support positive school attendance within the parameters of state law and district policy. Administrators rely heavily on the expertise of teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and representatives from the Green County Truancy Diversion Program to assist students in removing barriers to attending school. As a District, we welcome proactive and constructive partnerships with parents, guardians, and the community in supporting positive student attendance.

To achieve the best possible outcomes for our students, we need them to be prepared, to be engaged, and to be present in their classes for the entire school day. This is an exciting time for the School District of Monroe and every day we continue refining and improving educational experiences and outcomes for our students. To be at our best, we need all of our students to come to school regularly and be ready to do what is necessary to succeed. We know our students have tremendous potential within them and regular school attendance is critically important to realizing that potential.

— Josh Wilson, PhD, is the Associate Principal at Monroe High School. He can be contacted at 608-328-7557 or