Communities In Schools (CIS), the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization, has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month
in September and has pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.
CIS of Atlanta, which serves over 16,000 local families per year, recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success.
Far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Nationally, as many as one out of 10 students miss 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences.
Unfortunately, chronic absenteeism is most prevalent among low-income students. This indicates that one of the most effective strategies for providing pathways out of poverty is to create opportunities and interventions to get students who live in high-poverty neighborhoods to attend school every day.
“When our schools graduate more students, on time, our communities and our economy are stronger because we have more people who are prepared for the workplace and in our community’s civic life,” said Frank Brown, executive director of CIS of Atlanta.
On August 25, an op-ed
was published in the New York Times by Communities In Schools President Daniel Cardinali, addressing this very topic, and proposing a solution.
“Bringing a trained social worker onto the administrative team of every school with a large number of poor kids is effective and affordable,” he says in the op-ed. “At Communities In Schools, 75 percent of our case-managed students show improved attendance and 99 percent stay in school.”
Research shows that chronic absence predicts lower 3rd grade reading proficiency, course failure and eventual dropout. The impact hits low-income students particularly hard, especially if they don’t have the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom and are more likely to face barriers to getting to school, such as unreliable transportation and chronic health issues.
During Attendance Awareness Month, we are asking school leaders, community advocates, parents and students to act upon these critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism in their schools:
• Build a habit and a culture of regular attendance
• Use data to monitor when chronic absence is a problem, and
• Identify and solve barriers to getting children to school.
And while chronic absenteeism is generally considered a high school problem, research shows that poor attendance is also a concern among our youngest students. In fact, one in 10 kindergarten and first grade students nationwide miss nearly a month of school each year. In some cities, the rate is as high as one in four elementary students. In some schools, chronic absence affects 50 percent of all of the students! Once large numbers of children are chronically absent, the classroom churn results in less learning for everyone, as teachers have to spend time re-teaching material.
“We can turn the tide on chronic absenteeism by making it a priority, driving with data and using positive supports to engage families and students in showing up to school every day,” said Brown.