At least one out of 10 students misses nearly a month of school every year. In some cities as many as one out of four students are missing that much school…This alarming, largely overlooked crisis is preventing too many children from having a chance to learn and succeed… The good news is chronic absence is a problem we can solve. Families, schools and communities working together can improve attendance. - Hedy Chang, founder and director of Attendance Works, a national initiative committed to addressing chronic absence and a GLR Campaign partner.

Too many children, especially children from low-income families, miss too many days of school. Children can’t afford to lose this time, especially in the early years when reading instruction is a central part of the curriculum. One key area of GLR communities work is reducing chronic absence, which means students who miss school for any reason.

Here’s more from Hedy Chang:

When a student misses 10 percent or more of the school year – or 18 or more days – we call that chronic absenteeism. That is a red alert that a student is headed for academic trouble and eventually for dropping out of high school.

Too often, we think that absences aren't a problem as long as they’re excused or a child’s learning won’t be affected unless he or she misses a lot of days all in a row. But research shows that missing 10 percent of the school year – which can be just two or three days every month – can add up to so much lost time in the classroom that children just can't keep up.

And we don’t realize that poor attendance isn't just a problem in high schools. It can start as early as kindergarten and preschool. Many of these early absences aren't truancy or skipping school – they’re excused absences occurring for a variety for reasons. Even so they all add up to lost learning time.

If chronic absence continues year after year, some students may have missed half a year of instruction by the time they reach third grade. Emerging research shows that children chronically absent in both kindergarten and first grade are far less likely to read proficiently at the end of third grade. If children don’t show up for school regularly, they miss out on the chance to acquire fundamental reading and math skills and to build a habit of good attendance that will help them throughout their education and in the workplace.

Children from low-income families are especially hard hit. Children living in poverty have fewer resources to make up for the lost learning opportunities and are more likely to experience chronic absence because of the economic and health challenges they face. And when too many children miss too much school, the constant churn affects the whole classroom. It’s harder for teachers to teach and other students to learn.

To hear the rest of Hedy’s comments, watch the Attendance Works video.

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