A top priority in our learning community is to make sure that our students have what they need so they can stay focused on learning. As educators in a small urban district with high needs, we are committed to taking steps to overcome the barriers to learning that persist for many of our students.
A study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium found that students who missed two to four days in September were five times more likely than those who missed fewer than two days to be chronically absent for the year. Chronic absence is defined as missing at least 10 percent – or 18 days – of school over the course of an academic year for any reason. This includes both excused and unexcused absences.
According to the Children’s Aid Society, chronic absence is associated with low academic achievement, and is a strong indicator that those students may eventually drop out of school. It also undermines teaching and learning for all students when teachers must redirect their attention to meet the needs of chronically absent children once they return to school.
Here are some other sobering facts about the impact of absenteeism on students and learning:
- Students with lower preschool attendance have lower kindergarten readiness scores (University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research).
- Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently in third grade (Applied Survey Research & Attendance Works, April 2011).
- By 6th grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school (Baltimore Education Research Consortium).
- 9th grade attendance is a better graduation predictor than 8th grade test scores (University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research).
- Students who live in communities with high levels of poverty are four times more likely to be chronically absent than others often for reasons beyond their control, such as unstable housing, unreliable transportation and a lack of access to health care (The National Center for Children in Poverty).
Although the mentor program just started, already WJSHS Assistant Principal Kelly Webster reports that it is making a difference. She says:
“There have been several instances this week of staff contacting me when they heard their mentee may be in trouble, or need assistance in school or outside at home. Together we have been able to solve several problems, help get students the supplies they need and more. Our staff continues to amaze and inspire me. I thank them for their dedication to our students. The impact of this program in such a short time has been phenomenal.”