New Law Encourages NC Districts to Focus on Attendance

The NC General Assembly passed a bill last week encouraging school districts to adopt student attendance recognition programs to “promote student attendance in school and participation in class as an integral part of academic achievement and the learning process.” 

The bill comes on the heels of other state action around chronic absence. In February, the NC State Board of Education established a standard definition of chronic absenteeism to be used in public schools across the state. The Board’s definition is consistent with guidance shared by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) and the national organization Attendance Works to define chronic absence as missing more than 10 percent of enrolled school days in a given year.

NCECF is planning several activities in 2018 to raise awareness about chronic absence and implementing strategies for change, including:

  • Updating the 2017 AttendaNCe Counts report with new data and policies
  • Developing and disseminating case studies on local NC efforts to improve attendance
  • Creating a community toolkit to be used for Attendance Awareness Month
  • Releasing Pathways Design Team recommendations on strategies to improve regular attendance

Why the focus attendance?

Research demonstrates that regular school attendance is critical for children’s early literacy development, starting in preschool. Children, particularly those with multiple risk factors, benefit from regular attendance at a high quality early education program where they learn to work on tasks independently and follow directions. Child care settings also provide opportunities to identify early warning signs and to establish good attendance and learning habits. Consistent school attendance in the early grades boosts children’s academic learning, achievement, and motivation. Early chronic absence is associated with lower academic achievement, truancy in middle school, school dropout, delinquency, and substance abuse. When children miss a substantial number of school days, it is more difficult for them to learn to read and to acquire other crucial academic skills. The educational experience of regularly-attending children may also be adversely affected when teachers must divert their attention to meet the learning and social needs of chronically absent children when they return to school.

Regular school attendance is one of the three pillars of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading initiative, along with school readiness and summer learning. The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative has chosen regular school attendance as one of three areas of focus for action first in the effort to improve third-grade reading proficiency in the state. The other two areas selected by Pathways are children’s social-emotional health and high-quality birth-through-age-eight care and education.

NCECF is the state lead for the local Campaign for Grade Level Reading programs. Pathways to Grade Level Reading is also an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation, in collaboration with the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (Smart Start), NC Child and BEST NC.