Washington County’s School Board has set out on a mission to lower the instances of absenteeism throughout the county school system.
Board members announced at this week’s board meeting they want parents and students to become more aware that school success and learning go hand in hand with school attendance.
They are pointing out that nationwide an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent each year, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of the school year in excused and unexcused absences. That’s about 18-19 days in a typical year.
Officials say that high levels of chronic absence are found in urban, suburban and rural communities. They add that in some school districts, as many as one in four students are chronically absent.
Officials with school systems note that this is not just a high school problem and add that one in ten kindergarten and 1st grade students are chronically absent. Additionally, they point out that low-income students are four times more likely to be chronically absent than their middle-class peers. (Chronic absence occurs even when the absences occur sporadically throughout the year.)
Impacts of absenteeism are as follows:
- Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by the time they finish third grade.
- Lower levels of third grade reading are also found among children chronically absent in preschool and kindergarten or who did not ever attend preschool.
- By sixth grade, chronic absence becomes an early warning sign that a student may drop out of high school.
- By ninth grade, students who are chronically absent is a better indicator than eighth-grade test scores that a student will drop out.
- Children with certain risk factors – including poverty, homelessness and chronic illness – are more likely to be chronic absent and especially hard hit because they often lack the resources to make up for the lost opportunities to learn in the classroom.
- Chronic absence is often higher among children with disabilities.
Officials also point out that in school districts where state funding is determined by average daily attendance, chronic absence is costing districts millions of dollars each year.