Throughout the country, we see a
growing consensus that improving student attendance is an essential,
cost-effective strategy for ensuring student success and reducing
achievement gaps. Nationwide,
as many as one out of seven students are chronically absent. When students are
chronically absent, they are missing on average two or more days a month, or 10
percent or more of school days over the academic year. Chronic absence is a
sign that students and families may be experiencing barriers to getting to
school or are disengaged because their school experience makes them feel unsafe
and unsupported. Attendance reflects whether what happens in school encourages
students to show up every day or exacerbates the negative impact of challenges
experienced in the community or at home.
Chronic absence is a problem we can and must solve if we want
all children and youth to benefit fully from an education that prepares them
for success in school, work and life.
Please see below some important reasons to come to school each and every
day along with some ways to help make that happen!
1. Good attendance contributes to students doing well in school
and eventually in the workplace. The early school years are essential for laying a foundation
for strong attendance and academic success in future years. By middle and high
school, poor attendance is even more predictive of dropout. Each absence
represents a preventable lost opportunity to learn in the classroom. We can’t
afford to think of absenteeism as merely a lack of compliance with school
2. Students are at risk academically if they are chronically
absent (missing just two days a month or 10 percent of the school year). When too many absences occur, they can affect
learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. Sporadic,
not just consecutive, absences matter. Before you know it – just one or two
days a month can add up to nearly 10 percent of the school year.
3. Prevent absences whenever possible. Some absences are unavoidable for example,
when students have a serious or a contagious illness. But many absences can be
prevented by identifying and resolving barriers to attendance. These can be
related to transportation, bullying, inadequate supports for students with
disabilities or a lack of engaging instruction.
4. Students are more likely to attend school if they feel safe
(emotionally + physically), connected, supported, and believe they can learn
and achieve. School staff,
especially teachers, play a primary role in creating an engaging school climate
and culture that encourages students to attend and fosters student
self-efficacy. Educators and community partners can help students feel they
belong in school.
5. Relationship building is fundamental to any strategy for
improving student attendance. Caring adults, such as teachers, mentors, or afterschool providers
are critical to encouraging families and students to pay attention to absences
adding up and to seek out help to overcome barriers. Trusting relationships
motivate attendance even when it isn’t easy to get to class and encourage
students to share the barriers they face.
6. Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when the whole
community collaborates with families and schools. All of us can model problem-solving, engage
students and families in learning and set the expectation that attendance matters.
Community partners can also help address tough attendance barriers.
7. The key to success is to avoid laying blame and taking a
proactive, positive, data driven, problem-solving approach. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, can
show us where absenteeism is most concentrated (by school, grade, ethnicity,
geography, disability, income, etc.) and help us assess and identify the causes
8. Families, educators and community partners need to monitor
how many days a student misses school. Families should track how many days their children have missed
so they are aware of when they should take action. Districts and schools can
use data to identify which students are chronically absent and provide extra
support before they fall behind academically. A variety of community partners
can inquire about absences, help to identify root cause and offer solutions.
9. Reducing chronic absence helps create more equitable academic
outcomes, especially for children who live in poverty, experience discrimination
and have disabilities.
Chronic absence data can be leveraged to identify and address the school-wide
and systemic barriers that impact our most vulnerable children who experience
higher levels of chronic absence at younger ages. These children are less
likely to have the resources to make up for lost learning time.