Here is something you might not know about chronic absenteeism in the United States: in school year 2013-14 seven million students were chronically absent nationwide. “Chronic absence” is defined as missing ten percent or more days of school for any reason; both excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. According to Attendance Works:
- Children living in poverty are 2-3x more likely to be chronically absent;
- Students of color and disabled students are disproportionately affected by chronic absence;
- Barriers to good attendance include health problems, safe routes to school, and food insecurity.
Chronic absence can go unnoticed, but schools can (and should) take action. First, by examining how many and which students miss school. Next, using chronic absence data to identify where prevention and early intervention are needed. The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) requires districts and states to collect and report data on chronic absence; with stakeholder support and a strong network of partners, we can reduce or eliminate the barriers preventing students from getting to school each day.
2018 Attendance Awareness Campaign
Attendance Works launched the 2018 Attendance Awareness Campaign in March 2018 with the first of an ongoing series of webinars for interested stakeholders. We were excited to listen in and learn about ongoing challenges to student attendance, common barriers to student attendance, and solutions to help motivate students and their families to come to school every day.
We will be using the 2018 Attendance Awareness Toolkit to spread the word about the importance of attendance, and celebrate Attendance Awareness Month this fall. We’ll also be sharing stories from our own stakeholders on how school breakfast has had a positive impact on attendance. Make sure you visit this blog this summer, and help us celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September 2018.
Stakeholder Support: School Nutrition Staff
If you’re creating a team to combat chronic absenteeism don’t forget the school nutrition staff. School breakfast participation has been shown to improve attendance, and if you have students struggling with food insecurity your school breakfast program could be a tool to address that barrier. You can also work with school nutrition staff on other ways they can participate in a schoolwide attendance campaign. For example:
- Moving school breakfast to after the bell, or creating a “Second Chance” breakfast to accommodate more students’ schedules and motivate them to get to school in the morning;
- If rewards and attendance incentives are part of your attendance awareness program, prizes can be as simple as “Lunch with the Principal” or “Breakfast with Your Favorite Teacher”—the school nutrition staff can help you brainstorm ideas to engage students and their families.