More than 7 million students nationwide miss so much school that they are at risk academically. Being chronically absent increases the likelihood that children will struggle to read well by third grade, fail classes in middle school and drop out of high school.
This is according to a new report from Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center. The report, Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence, was released in conjunction with this year’s Attendance Awareness Month.
An analysis of federal data in the report found that nearly 10,000 public schools across the U.S. have a huge problem with chronic absence, with more than 30 percent of their students chronically absent each year. That’s 11 percent of all public schools in the country. At another 11 percent of schools, between 20 and 29 percent of students are chronically absent.
The causes of chronic absenteeism are multifold, but one stands out as especially significant: student health. Students with unmanaged chronic health conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are more likely to miss class because of the symptoms of their illness or because they are receiving medical treatment during the school day. Students can also be chronically absent because of health issues such as fever, flu, dental pain, vision problems or mental health and anxiety issues.
In addition to being indicative of individual health problems, the report points out that chronic absenteeism rates can also reveal structural barriers in the community, such as, “lack of access to health care, environmental hazards, poor transportation, community violence or unstable housing—or barriers in the school, such as a negative climate and problematic disciplinary practices.”
The report features case studies from 11 districts and schools on how they’re addressing chronic absenteeism rates. We encourage you to read these inspiring stories from across the country.
For more practical information on how to address the health-related causes of chronic absenteeism, check out Addressing the Health-Related Causes of Chronic Absenteeism: A Toolkit for Action. This document focuses on preparing educators—particularly school district decision-makers—with knowledge and practical guidance for creating meaningful change to address health-related chronic absenteeism.
Attendance Works is a national initiative dedicated to improving the policy, practice and research around attendance. Everyone Graduates Center supports the development of tools and models designed to keep all students on the path to graduation. Together with eight other national partners—including Healthy Schools Campaign—they convene Attendance Awareness Month each September to promote awareness of the importance of regular attendance.