Advancing Efforts to Address Chronic Absenteeism

March 02, 2016

Kadija is a senior at High School for Media and Communications in New York. As a participant in the My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentors Initiative, Kadija was paired with a mentor who truly transformed her life and her approach to school.

“He’s the only person who cared about me when it came to school,” she says in a video. “He’s the only person that actually made me care more, the only person that made me come to school more than I was, the only person who helped me think positive rather than negative.”

Kadija is one of millions of students across the country struggling with attendance issues. And these issues have implications for the rest of their lives. Last Friday, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced two key components of the Every Student, Every Day initiative: the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Success Mentors Initiative—with 10 initial participating cities—and a multi-million dollar Ad Council campaign to engage parents on this critical issue.

The Every Student, Every Day Campaign is a cross-sector initiative aimed at helping states, school districts and communities address the root causes of chronic absenteeism, including health-related causes. Chronic absenteeism—or missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, excused or unexcused—detracts from learning and is a proven early warning sign of academic risk and school dropout. Nationwide, a staggering number of children are chronically absent, often at a very young age and often without attracting attention or intervention.

Our work with the National Collaborative on Education and Health, the group we co-convene with Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), helped catalyze the launch of the Every Student, Every Day initiative. We are actively involved in the planning and implementation of the initiative.

The launch of the MBK Success Mentors Initiative and the Ad Council campaign are important steps towards catalyzing efforts across the country to address chronic absenteeism. The MBK Success Mentors initiative aims to reduce chronic absenteeism by connecting more than one million students with caring mentors and will launch with participation from school districts in 10 communities—Austin, Boston, Columbus, Denver, Miami-Dade, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, San Antonio and Seattle—that accepted the MBK community challenge.

Ad Council’s “Absences Add Up” campaign is intended to elevate the conversation about the devastating impact of chronic absenteeism, specifically targeting parents of K-8th grade students. A key component of the effort will include a new campaign website offering resources for parents in the key areas that contribute to student absences, including an online toolkit offering downloadable resources such as customizable posters, blog posts, infographics and absence trackers.

Healthy Schools Campaign is working with ED to integrate health and wellness into the Every Student, Every Day initiative and ensure that school districts, communities and school stakeholders—including parents, teachers and principals—have access to tools and resources that can support efforts to address the health-related causes of chronic absenteeism. For example, we are playing an active role in helping ED plan its summer Every Student, Every Day national conference. The conference will bring together states, school districts and communities that are committed to implementing proven strategies for addressing chronic absenteeism. We are working to ensure that the conference includes a focus on the health-related causes of chronic absenteeism and that states and communities have the tools and resources necessary to ensure students are healthy and ready to learn.

In addition, we are continuing to work to ensure that the policies and systems are in place to support schools in addressing chronic absenteeism. We are actively working to ensure that implementation of the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, upholds key provisions within the law, such as the requirement that states and schools include chronic absenteeism on their report cards, which will support efforts to address chronic absenteeism.

We look forward to continuing to work with ED to advance the Every Student, Every Day initiative and support implementation of these two recently announced components of the initiative.