Too many days off

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 14, 2014 09:22 am

We don’t think it’s a stretch to assume we weren’t alone in expressing surprise, and disappointment, when we learned that more than 3 in 10 Baker High School students missed at least 10 percent of the school days — at least 15 days — during the 2012-13 school year.

A recent study published by The Oregonian no doubt caused similar consternation across the state.

After poring over school attendance reports, the newspaper found that 24 percent of Oregon high school students missed at least 10 percent of the total school days that year.

That BHS students are absent more often than most of their counterparts takes a bit of the luster off another recent report that showed the high school’s graduation rate was 80 percent last year — 13 percentage points higher than the Oregon average.

Of course earning a diploma is more important than amassing a sterling attendance record.

But neither students nor their parents should be satisfied with what Baker Superintendent Walt Wegener aptly described as a “chronic attendance issue.”

Missing school can become a habit — a bad habit.

Worse yet, it’s a habit that becomes much more damaging once a student has finished high school.

Baker High School’s rising graduation rate — up from 72 percent two years ago — suggests that many students can get their diploma despite missing a significant number of days.

But those students, should they bring a similarly slothful approach to college, are apt to get into academic trouble quickly in the more demanding atmosphere of higher education.

Few if any employers, including the military, will tolerate chronic absences.

The Oregonian report should, and we hope it will, roust local parents and students from their complacency. 

That students will miss school occasionally is inevitable.

They get sick. Some have family commitments.

But having 35.5 percent of students miss at least 15 days in one school year is neither inevitable nor acceptable.