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Attendance Awareness Month Begins

September 1, 2016

Attendance is essential to school success, but too often students, parents and schools do not realize how quickly absences — excused and unexcused — can add up to academic trouble. Chronic absence — missing 10 percent of the school year, or just 2-3 days every month—can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing courses and ninth-graders dropping out of high school. Low-income students, who most depend on school for opportunities to learn, are especially harmed when they miss too much instruction.

Chronic absence is an alarming, largely overlooked problem that is preventing too many children from having an opportunity to learn and succeed. It affects 5 million to 7.5 million students— more than one in 10 — nationwide. This is not just a problem in middle and high school: It starts in kindergarten and preschool. It is a problem in districts of every size, urban, suburban and rural. The report, Mapping the Early Attendance Gap, shows that low-income children, English language learners, and children with disabilities miss the most school. In every state, missing too much school correlates with weaker standardized test scores. Read this research summary for more details.

Stemming this crisis is essential to our country’s economic and educational future. Growing recognition of its importance led to its inclusion in the recently passed Every Student Every Day Act, which reauthorizes federal funding for public schools. Chronic absence is a required reporting metric under Title I and Title II funds can be used for professional development about chronic absence.

The good news is this is a problem we can fix when schools and communities work with students and families, starting in the early grades to identify barriers to getting to school, help students overcome these barriers and cultivate a culture of attendance that encourages showing up every day even when it isn’t easy. This starts by helping everyone in the community recognize they have a stake and a role. It requires careful attention to data and strategic, locally tailored interventions to address attendance challenges.

We’re using the fourth-annual Attendance Awareness Month to encourage schools and communities to remember that Relationships Matter for Attendance, while determining who, when and where students are most likely to miss too much school. Why students are absent is also important: What challenges or misconceptions are keeping students from getting to class? We also want to learn what works from schools and communities that are turning attendance around so that all students have an equal opportunity to learn.


September 1, 2016