Because student attendance plays an important role in a school's annual State Board of Education report card, the administrators at Tallassee High School have come up with an incentive program that is paying off for students with perfect and near-perfect attendance.

"We are working hard on school attendance," Tallassee High School principal Matt Coker said.

Being just over a month into the new school year, Coker said attendance is already on the uptick.

"We had a large number of students with perfect attendance since the beginning of the year of the year," Coker said.

To keep attendance up, the school is holding drawings throughout the school year.

"Every three weeks we will conduct a drawing consisting of students that have perfect attendance during that period," Coker said.

Rep. Mike Holmes is helping Tallassee City Schools fund this initiative by donating the funds needed to put this incentive program in place.

In Alabama, absenteeism is labeled chronic when a student is absent more than 15 times in one academic school year. The national definition of chronic absenteeism is 20 or more absences in an academic school year.

According to, absenteeism in the first month of school can predict poor attendance throughout the school year. Half the students who miss two to four days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school.

Nationally more than eight million students miss nearly a month of school each year. Absenteeism and its ill effects start early. One in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent.

Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade or be held back.

By sixth grade chronic absence becomes a leading indicator a student will drop out of high school.

Research shows missing 10% of school, or about 18 days in most school districts, negatively affects a student's academic performance. That's just two days a month and is known as chronic absence.

Students who live in communities with high levels of poverty are four times more likely to be chronically absent than others often for reasons beyond their control, such as unstable housing, unreliable transportation and a lack of access to healthcare.

When students improve their attendance rates, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.

Attendance improves when schools engage students and parents in positive ways and when schools provide mentors for chronically-absent students.