Regular school attendance is critical, starting in the early grades, and there is a lot schools and communities can do to address chronic absence.
That was the message of the Department of Public Instruction’s Director of Integrated Academic and Behavior Systems (and Pathways Regular School Attendance Design Team member) Amy Jablonski to the State Board of Education this week. Amy shared results from studies showing the effects of chronic absence on students’ outcomes (increased absences in later grades, lower achievement levels, and lower graduation rates), clarified that chronic absence starts — and matters — in the earliest grades, and urged that the earlier we act to decrease chronic absence, the better.
Amy also made it clear that there are actionable strategies, for example around transportation and health, that can increase students’ attendance and decrease the numbers of children who are chronically absent from school. Those solutions need to be tailored by and for the children and families that struggle the most with obstacles to regular attendance — families of color and those living with low income. Amy also urged the Board to look at chronic absence as a community problem that requires both school-based and community solutions, like partnerships with health care providers. She said the state needs to come up with a common definition of chronic absenteeism and improve data collection.
Amy’s presentation about chronic absence was part of the Board’s conversation about the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model, which holds up schools as the ideal place for cross-sector collaboration to address social determinants of health and meet the full spectrum of children’s needs. The Pathways to Grade Level Reading Initiative believes that more children can be reading on grade level by third grade, with aligned, birth-through-age-eight shared measures, policies and practices that address all the domains of children’s lives — health, family and community, and education.
Read more about Amy’s stellar presentation and the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child pilots here in EdNC.
See our report AttendaNCe Counts for more information.