September is Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide recognition of the connection between school attendance and academic achievement. Started in 2013 by Attendance Works, the goal of this month is to mobilize schools and communities to promote the value of good attendance and to address the largely hidden crisis of chronic absenteeism. To kick off the month, Attendance Works has released a new report highlighting how chronic absenteeism is a significant cause of the achievement gap starting as early as kindergarten.
Chronic absenteeism refers to a child missing 10 percent of school days for any reason – excused and unexcused, including in-school suspensions. Research shows that this is the point when students start to fall behind academically because they have missed too many school days.
According to the report, absenteeism rates among kindergartners, particularly low-income and minority children, are nearly as high as those among high school freshmen. An estimated 1 in 10 kindergartners misses at least 18 days of school, or nearly a month of class, per year. Chronic absence in kindergarten can leave third-graders unable to read proficiently, sixth-graders struggling with coursework, and high school students off track for graduation. The missed days in a student’s earliest years are a significant precursor to reduced levels of school achievement and increased risk of dropping out of school.
When young children are absent, it’s most often due to health. Asthma and tooth decay are among the leading causes of absences, along with other mental or physical health problems suffered by children and their families. By raising awareness of chronic absenteeism and monitoring how many days each student misses school for any reason— excused, unexcused or suspensions— schools have the best chance at being able to intervene early.
“Poor attendance is among our first and best warning signs that a student has missed the on-ramp to school success and is headed off track for graduation,” the Attendance Works report says. “We must address attendance and its connection to public health early in a child’s life.”
To learn more about Attendance Awareness Month and to download resources to use in the classroom, community and at home, please click here.
For additional research about kindergarten attendance, please click here.