The attendance rate was 93.71 percent in the last school year, about half a percentage point better than the previous year, Walter said. The state average was 93.9 percent, he said.
None of the schools was below 90 percent in attendance rate, a goal the state is shooting for, he said.
The state goal will increase each year until 2001, when the attendance rate in each class is not to drop below 93 percent, he said.
"We're chasing a state average that's a moving target," Walter said.
Walter said the attendance department targeted about 300 students throughout the school system who had a history of poor attendance.
The attendance officials are trying to work with children as early as the elementary grades so that they develop an early pattern of good attendance, he said.
At Jefferson High School, students who missed four or fewer days were eligible to win a variety of donated prizes, from a used car to a color television set and T-shirts, Walter said.
The attendance department also is working on improving the dropout rate, which is currently 4 percent, using the same method to calculate the dropout rate as Maryland and Virginia, Walter said.
Walter said students who drop out are tracked to see if they get their general equivalency diplomas, graduate from summer school or return to school.
Counselors attempt to meet with students who drop out to encourage them to return and to find out why they dropped out, Walter said.
Counselors had worked with students who were on the verge of dropping out to help them decide to stay in school, Walter said.
But often the students run into an obstacle and decide the easiest solution is to drop out of school rather than to make up a class, Walter said.
"We had some good success stories, but still there were a lot of disappointments," Walter said.