And the problem is not insignificant; 7.5 million students nationwide were chronically absent last year. When chronic absenteeism (defined as a student who misses 10 percent – roughly 18 days of the school year) happens at the kindergarten and first grade level, statistics show that these children are unlikely to be reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
Research also shows that, by 6th grade, missing 10 percent or more of school leads to course failure and often to dropping out at the high school level. And at any grade school level, teachers and school administrators have learned that this 10-percent-or-greater level of absence is enough to indicate that the student is likely headed for trouble.
One positive development in the effort to improve attendance is the national Attendance Awareness Month, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Attendance Works.
Why school attendance requires an awareness month
What the folks at Attendance Works are doing to make a difference
Previous successes by Attendance Works include shaping a Buffalo New York plan that reduced chronic absence by eight percent, a Los Angeles plan that resulted in 48,000 fewer absences, and an Oakland California toolkit for elementary schools designed to reduce chronic absence rates.
Their current year plans include assisting states in developing new research to expand awareness regarding chronic absence, engaging with key policymakers via a U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution, working with school superintendents to create a Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and expanding access to school attendance tools and webinars.
What you can do to help
- Stay on your attendance toes. Sign up for Attendance Awareness Month Updates to be apprised of events and activities you can get involved in to encourage attendance.
- Make a difference on Facebook. Facebook users can download an Attendance Awareness Month Cover Photo. The photo is exactly the size you need to display it as the cover photo on your Facebook Page as a way to help spread the word about Attendance Awareness Month and show your participation.
- Learn more by watching! If you or your children are not likely to find the time for, or interest in, reading the stats and info about school attendance and school absenteeism, check out the 6-minute Attendance Works video: a well made, informative, and interesting tool to help you and your kids absorb the information you need to make a difference in your family’s or your community’s school attendance.
- Promote attendance locally at your school, library, town hall, or business by downloading school attendance posters or banners. There are large-sized posters for elementary and separate banners for middle/high school, good to keep up year-round; the kind that can you get printed at your local Staples or FedEx Kinkos for about $50. Or you can download and print an 11×17 inch Attendance Month flyer from your own printer – the perfect size for posting throughout the community to raise school attendance awareness. For the workplace or library, download the attendance infographic, spelling out the facts about chronic absence in the early grades.
- Make a difference with your wallet. Given all the successes of the Attendance Works organization and it’s well articulated plans for the current and future years, consider making a donation to this worthy cause.