By Jennifer Keyes-Maloney
ACNJ Releases Report on Chronic Absenteeism
Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released a report September 10 on ‘chronic absenteeism.’ The report indicates that more than 125,000 or about 10 percent of New Jersey’s K-12 students were considered “chronically absent” during the 2013-2014 school year.
The organization used New Jersey Department of Education data to develop the report. Showing Up Matters: The State of Chronic Absenteeism in New Jersey, found that the problem was most evident in 177 school districts that had 10 percent or more of their K-12 chronically absent, representing about 76,000 students who were chronically absent.
“Chronically absent” is defined in the report as missing 10 percent or more excused or unexcused school days. Based on a 180-day school year, any student who misses 18 days or more per year—or about two days every month, is considered “chronically absent”.
According to Attendance Works, a national and state initiative that promotes better policies and practices around school attendance, over half of chronically absent kindergartners become chronically absent first graders and demonstrate lower gains in math, reading and general knowledge in first grade. When students miss too much school early on, the negative impact on their learning can be long-term, including reading problems, lower test scores, poor attendance in future school years and weaker social-emotional skills.
he report includes several recommendations on how best to address chronic absenteeism. Recommendations for schools include:
Send the message to parents “early and often.” Schools play an important role in promoting attendance by helping parents understand, particularly in the early ears, that coming to school every day is important for their child’s educational success.
- Identify problems at the beginning of the school year. In order for intervention to take place early, school districts should analyze absentee data from the first weeks of school.
- Contact parents immediately when children begin to show a pattern of too many absences. Making connections with family members as soon as a problem is identified is very important.
- Foster positive relationships with families. Improving student attendance can be linked to the relationships between school and family.
- Reward work for excellent or improved attendance. Make sure that good or improved attendance is celebrated. Such positive reinforcements can include small prizes, certificates or pizza parties.
The report also includes steps parents can take to improve their children’s attendance, including talking to their children about why going to school is so important, establishing a home climate that leads to good school attendance and developing a “back-up plan” when family issues arise, and children need to get to school.