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February 2014 Vol. 21. No. 4 Focus on Keeping Students Engaged

Theme articles

A citywide focus on combating chronic absences

By Dan Hampton on Feb 13, 2014 11:23 AM

Regular school attendance can contribute to students developing reading proficiency, staying engaged in school, scoring higher on tests, graduating from high school and college, and maintaining a job.

Research indicates that chronic absenteeism often leads to students dropping out. Average attendance below 90 percent – missing 18 days or more out of the school year – often translates into 3rd graders reading below grade level, 6th graders failing courses, and 9th graders leaving school altogether. Chronic absenteeism rates run as high as one-third of students in low-income, urban school districts, and the effect of absenteeism can be even more severe for students from low-income families. 

Last October, Project U-Turn, a citywide initiative focused on the dropout crisis, along with Mayor Nutter and Superintendent Hite, announced a new campaign to help raise awareness about the importance of consistent attendance.  

The campaign coincides with a national and state initiative called Attendance Works, an effort to highlight the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success, starting with school entry and the early years. 

Project U-Turn is working with local media partners to run PSAs and create billboards that address the importance of regular attendance and the consequences of missed time at school. 

Comments (9)

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on February 13, 2014 11:08 am
I would argue that healthcare costs are the primary reason why we have financial problems. The U.S. spends 18% of GDP on healthcare with no ordinate outcome while the rest of the world spends less than half of that for better outcomes.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2014 12:25 pm
This is such a bizarre comment. It's totally irrelevant to the article and the population of people in which it is evaluating. Re-read the article. Clearly you missed the point. Perhaps you missed too much school as a child, maybe from inadequate health care.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on February 13, 2014 12:15 pm
and they forgot lack of child care...way to many of my students are the "parents" babysitting is not fair to the child Linda K.
Submitted by PennKnoxCitizen (not verified) on February 14, 2014 3:58 pm
Title IX requires School Districts to provide learning opportunities for pregnant and parenting students. Districts and individual schools can provide our students with alternatives. Philadelphia just started a 'Virtual School', use the virtual school with a blended learning model for students who want attachment to a 'brick and mortar' school community.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 13, 2014 2:00 pm
One word....parents. For the younger kids, it is all up to the parents to get them to school and for so MANY reasons, they don't seem to realize the importance of getting their kids there every day, on time.
Submitted by ms pat (not verified) on February 13, 2014 5:30 pm
Some of my favorite absence excuses from elementary students- my uniform was dirty, my mom was sleeping/working/at the laundromat, my mom said I didnt have to go, the water/power/gas was shut off ...(sometimes they were really sick, but often they came to school sick)... their moms care about them, that isn't my point- it is economics that make it very difficult for 'single, minimum-wage earning, have to work 2 jobs to survive' moms to 'be there' - and yes! I believe they really do want to be there. Let's stop pointing fingers at each other and put down our defenses.Can we accept our part of the responsibility (I know I could improve some of my lessons) and pitch in to pay close attention to our children/students in order to better recognize their strengths/needs and encourage them to come to school every day. Maybe I'm wearing rose-colored glasses, but I think most parents want to be our partners in their children's education, and we need to encourage them. They are worth it! Together we have a better chance to improve student attendance.
Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on February 13, 2014 8:55 pm
Another of the many reasons schools need full time nurses. School nurses can play a significant role in helping parents know how to decide when to keep their child home from school for illness. Most absence notes suggest illness as the reason for the absence. Administration/ teachers are at a loss to respond to this when they suspect excuse notes are invalid. A nurse is the appropriate person to follow-up on cases of repetitive absences for reasons of illness. Physicals on health files indicate a child's health status. For example, a well child physical is inconsistent with repetitive absence for "illness". A nurse who has a family's trust can assist a family in changing patterns of attendance for the better. I did this successfully for many years and it was a very rewarding part of my job. Unfortunately, it is one of many aspects of the job which has fallen by the wayside as my caseload has doubled to 1,500.
Submitted by Wendy Fortunato (not verified) on February 14, 2014 5:22 pm
At my previous school, the school nurse and I, the school counselor, partnered to meet with parents of frequently absent students. The combo was especially effective since some problems were unearthed through the skills of the counselor, and some through the nurse. In most cases, there are multiple challenges to families who have trouble getting their children to school every day, and these require a multi-pronged solution. These situations are often really tough to change, and require lots of persistence, something that understaffed schools find nearly impossible to provide this year. Sad for the kids...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 16, 2014 8:22 am
Chronic absenteeism is another symptom of the Culture of Poverty our large city school districts face. This is one reason why extending the school day and school year will not improve literacy or college readiness. We need to engage the families so they will play an active role in their children's education.

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