Research shows that daily school attendance positively impacts students’ social, emotional and cognitive development. School participation maximizes life opportunities for all students. It gives them the foundation they need to succeed in school and in life.
However, a recent study shows that the number of chronically absent students is on the rise. Nearly 8 million students across the U.S. were chronically absent in the 2015-16 school year, according to a new analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection by the advocacy group Attendance Works.
This figure represents an increase over the 6.8 million students who missed more than three weeks of school during the 2013-14 school year. These students were chronically absent.
When students are absent for fewer days, their grades and reading skills often improve—even among those students who are struggling in school. Students who attend school regularly are significantly more likely to graduate from high school, setting them up for a strong future.
Physically being present in school is one of the most basic conditions for a student’s success – if a student is not in school, he or she is not learning what is being taught and could be falling behind in earning the course credits needed to graduate.
Being chronically absent is associated with a lot of poor outcomes:
The holes that students with chronic absences leave behind affect students with good attendance too. If a teacher waits to teach new material until more students are present, all students fall behind. When absent students are in school, a teacher may use class time to bring them up to speed. Evidence suggests that this reduces math achievement among students with better attendance.
Parents might think that high school students miss the most days of school. Research shows that among elementary school children, kindergarteners have the highest rate of absenteeism.
When kids are absent for an average of just two days of school per month—even when the absences are excused– it can have a negative impact. These absences can affect kids as early as kindergarten. Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten often have difficulty keeping up with their peers academically and tend to fall behind in reading. This is critical because research shows that when students are able to read on grade level by the end of third grade — the transition period where students go from learning to read to reading to learn — they are three to four times more likely to graduate high school and attend college, post-graduate, or professional development classes than their peers who struggle with reading.
The research also shows that when chronic absenteeism worsens every year from sixth to 12th grade, students are more likely to drop out of school. This is a status associated with poor economic outcomes.
Here are some evidence-based strategies that work:
Campuses can use school-based mentors who track chronic absenteeism and work with parents on improving attendance. Classroom teachers can visit students’ homes and text with parents about attendance. Additionally, sending mailings home with good information about attendance reduces chronic absenteeism and gets students back on track.
By making school attendance a priority, families help their children get better grades, develop healthy life habits and have a better chance of graduating from high school.
While some absences may be unavoidable, limiting your child’s absences puts him or her on a path to future success. If your child is missing school, figure out the reasons for the absences. Communicate with the teacher or school to take advantage of support services.
“September is a particularly good time to focus on attendance,” said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving school attendance “Research shows that students who miss two to four days in the first month of school are more likely to become chronically absent during the school year. By paying attention to absences early in the school year and early in a child’s academic career, we can turn around attendance and achievement.”
District leaders hope community members, staff members, families and students will recognize Attendance Awareness Month and pledge to reduce chronic absenteeism.
By taking simple measures early on, everyone can help set every child on the path to success.
Director of Written Communication & Spanish Media
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