Nationwide, as many as one out of 10 students is chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of school days, or nearly a month over the course of a year. Chronic absence is an early indicator of academic trouble and is a strong predictor of high school dropout. Attending school every day, even as early as kindergarten, is essential in a child’s long term academic success. Studies show that children who miss more than 18 days of their kindergarten year often end up with lower test scores later on. Missing 20% of the school year is a better predictor of dropping out than test scores.
Absences, excused or not, can easily add up to too much lost time in the classroom. Some absences are unavoidable, especially when children are ill and need to say home. The important part is that children attend school as many days as possible so they don’t miss out on the learning that happens in the classroom.
Reducing chronic absence can help close achievement gaps. Chronic absence especially affects achievement for low-income students who depend more on school for opportunities to learn. Because they are more likely to face systemic barriers to getting to school, low-income children have higher levels of chronic absence starting as early as prekindergarten. Chronic absence data can be used to trigger interventions so high-risk student populations receive the supports they need, ideally before they fall behind academically.
Get involved in improving attendance in your community. All of us can make a difference by helping students and families get excited about learning and feeling more connected with their schools, setting the expectation that attending school every day matters and working together to identify and help families overcome barriers to getting to school. Community partners are especially important for helping schools and families address and overcome tough barriers, such as limited access to health care, unstable housing, poor transportation or neighborhood violence.
Relationship building is also fundamental to any strategy for improving student attendance. Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they show up. Trusting relationships – whether with teachers, mentors, coaches or other caring adults – are critical to encouraging families and students to seek out help to overcome barriers to attendance. Encourage a child today!
Join the United Way’s Social Media Campaign on September 18: Simply tweet or post a Facebook message. Upload a picture to Instagram of your child heading out to school. Use hashtags #SchoolEveryDay and #LiveUnited