School Attendance Matters

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by KYW’s Dr. Marciene Mattleman

Hedy Chang, in an article in Education Week, provides evidence that taking attendance isn’t just routine, but can reveal interesting data about kids.

National research shows that one in ten kindergarten and first grade children miss a month of school every year. Studies reveal that chronically absent kindergartners perform at lower levels than their first grade peers and for many low income youngsters this persists until 5th grade.

Schools calculate attendance by percentages and may not be aware of individual students who are absent 18 days—10% of the school year. Schools without bus service, high rates of asthma and chaotic classes led by inexperienced teachers may increase absence.

Attendance is a not just a problem for parents. Schools have a role. A Bronx school increased attendance during Ramadan by setting up a lounge for fasting Muslim students. Baltimore and Providence provide special transportation for chronic absentees.

Chang recommends that the federal government collect longitudinal data on chronic absence to better assess school improvement, gauging if absenteeism in the long run negatively impacts learning.

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