Attendance Awareness Month: Why school attendance matters

Attendance Awareness MonthSeptember has been dubbed “Attendance Awareness Month” by Attendance Works, whose recent report, “Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success” aims to show how chronic school absences impact achievement. According to the report, an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million US students miss nearly a month of school each year. Thee absences add up: the report shows that students who miss more school than their peers score lower on the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) tests, which are often called “the nation’s report card.”

While there’s no common definition of chronic absences–or absenteeism–researchers (including City Connects’ Evaluation Team) use missing 10% or more days per school year. We know that chronic absenteeism is an important predictor of academic risk and dropout. So what does City Connects do for students who are chronically absent, or at risk for chronic absences? The City Connects practice ensures that all students strengths and needs are reviewed across academic, social/emotional, health, and family domains. An out-of-school issue in any one of these categories could contribute to a student not being able to get to school.

City Connects School Site Coordinators link students to services and enrichment opportunities in the community that match their individual strengths and needs. If absences are a concern, Coordinators work with school staff and families/caregivers to identify the root causes of absenteeism and then tailor services to address these specific causes. This customized approach works:

City Connects Impact on Chronic Absences As was first reported in the 2012 City Connects Progress Report, students who attended City Connects schools in elementary school are significantly less likely to be chronically absent than students who never attended City Connects schools. By grade 9, these students are 25% less likely to be chronically absent. Research shows that the freshman year of high school is an important year for students. A paper from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research reports that students who end grade 9 “on track” are four times more likely to graduate on time than those who fall off-track.

For more recommendations–from practice to policy–on how to address absenteeism and help students come to school every day ready to learn and thrive, check out the Attendance Works report. Especially important is their recommendation to improve strategies for intervening:

Help schools and community partners to intervene with chronically absent students through community-wide approaches to health and transportation challenges, as well as personalized outreach.

We work with community partners local to all of our sites and take a collective approach to ending absenteeism, which is just one lever that will help us narrow the achievement gap together.

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