By Jay Speck, Solano County Superintendent of Schools
Special to Patch
As we approach the second half of the school year, some students are already heading toward academic trouble – they have missed too many days of school. Chronic absences often hinder academic performance at each subsequent grade level; yet close to 7.5 million students across our nation miss nearly a month of school every year.
Problems with absenteeism can start surprisingly early. National research shows that 1 in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent, meaning that they miss 10 percent of the school year, or roughly 18 days of instruction, due to excused and unexcused absences.
As a consequence, children who are regularly absent in kindergarten and first-grade are less likely to read proficiently by third grade. Reading is an essential skill that children use daily, both in and out of school, and those who do not read well have a more difficult time completing school work or securing a job in the future. These students are also more likely to continue a pattern of chronic absenteeism in later years since they never developed good attendance habits.
Addressing chronic absence is important, because this trend, especially when it begins as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributes to the achievement gap and, ultimately, dropout rates. Research shows:
- Students who are persistently absent in kindergarten and first-grade are far less likely to read proficiently by third-grade, and students who do not read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school.
- By the sixth-grade, if a student continues to be chronically absent, it is a leading indicator of whether he or she will drop out of high school.
- In the ninth-grade, habitual absenteeism is a better indicator than test scores of a student’s likelihood to graduate from high school.
- For every day of school missed, it takes three days to make up what was taught.
In response to this issue, the Solano County Office of Education (SCOE) has launched an awareness campaign entitled School Attendance - Every Minute Matters: From Awareness to Action. This campaign is designed to provide communication resources to schools, engage school communities, and boost student attendance as soon as children enter school.
SCOE and local school districts have pledged to make improved attendance a top priority. Every Minute Matters aims to decrease chronic absence starting in the early grades.
Our Every Minute Matters campaign educates families about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day. Local school districts are taking a closer look at their attendance data to identify and determine the number of students who are missing 10 percent or more days of school.
Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve student outcomes such as increased graduation rates.
Schools need support from the entire community to resolve chronic absenteeism. Think about what you can do within your own family and neighborhood to help get more kids to school on time and on a regular basis. Please join us in this effort. Together we can make Every Minute Matter! For more information logon to: www.solanocoe.net.