The research is clear: Missing school has significant consequences for America’s youngest learners. This report — an examination of chronic early absence in education — highlights how poor attendance cracks a child’s academic foundation. It explores causes and potential solutions for this all-too-common classroom challenge and makes a compelling case for giving this issue more attention in relevant child welfare initiatives.
Going to school regularly is a critical first step in a child’s educational journey
Findings & Stats
Terminology Check: Chronic Early Absence
Chronic early absence, as defined by the authors of this report, is when a child misses 10% or more of a school year while enrolled in a K-3 grade level. This calculation takes all of student’s absences — both excused and unexcused — into account.
A Close Look at Contributing Factors
Readers will learn the different roles that families, communities and schools can play in advancing chronic early absence. For example: Families who move frequently, communities that are plagued by violence and schools that fail to engage parents of all backgrounds are all potential causes of chronic absenteeism, say experts.
Extra Credit Items
This report offers a variety of tools to help schools and communities examine chronic absenteeism in their local learning environment. These include: A five-step guide on how to identify contributing factors in chronic early absence; a one-page tutorial on developing strategies that address early grade absenteeism; and six examples of promising programs aimed at reducing chronic early absence.
An Overlooked Issue
The United States does not have a system in place to ensure that schools are actively monitoring and reporting on levels of chronic early absence. In fact, many school districts simply do not know if and how chronic absenteeism comes into play at their facilities.
Two Hard-hit Groups
While chronic absenteeism has an immediate impact on the academic performance for all children, it is particularly crippling — and leads to lingering learning deficits — among Latino students and children living in poverty.
This report proposes using early absenteeism as a means for catching educational and familial issues early. It also identifies four ways to maximize the diagnostic potential of attendance records moving forward. These are: 1) begin monitoring chronic absence in school across the country; 2) work to bolster attendance via strong school and community partnerships; 3) embed chronic early absence into relevant initiatives; and 4) conduct more research.
Gathering the Facts
The authors of this report conducted a three-pronged research review to learn more about the impact of chronic early absence on a child’s education. This effort included gathering information from: 1) a national multi-year early education study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education; 2) a literature search; and 3) an outreach campaign involving contact with more than 100 child welfare and education professionals.
Statements & Quotations
School attendance reflects the degree to which schools, communities and families adequately address the needs of young children.
Over 11% of children in kindergarten and almost nine percent in first grade are chronically absent.
Students have to be present and engaged in order to learn.
When chronic early absence occurs, everyone pays.
Using absenteeism as a trigger for early intervention could be especially important for closing the achievement gap for low-income families as well as for children from communities of color.