Regular school attendance, starting in preschool, helps puts children on track for reading at grade-level in third grade, a critical benchmark and predictor of future academic and life success. Consistent school attendance in the early grades boosts children’s academic learning, achievement, and motivation, while early chronic absence is associated with lower academic achievement, truancy in middle school, school dropout, delinquency, and substance abuse.
Chronic absence is a complex issue, since the causes can vary from poverty to health issues to parent understanding of the importance of being in school every day. Regular attendance is also an equity issue. Children who are living with economic disadvantage are both more likely to be chronically absent in the early grades and less likely to have access to the needed resources to make up for missed time in school.
The good news is there are actionable strategies to support regular attendance at the state, district, and school and community levels. For the past three years, NCECF has focused attention on school attendance and chronic absence as a part of national Attendance Awareness Month in September.
- State-Level: NCECF’s 2017 issue brief AttendaNCe Counts: Chronic Absence in North Carolina, updated in 2018, examines how NC is doing on state-level policies and practices recommended by Attendance Works, a national organization focused on chronic absence.
- District-Level: NCECF’s 2018 issue brief AttendaNCe Counts: What North Carolina School Districts are Doing to Reduce Chronic Absence summarizes the results of a survey of about half of NC’s school districts, sharing where NC school districts feel they are doing well and where they could use more support.
- School- and Community-Level: NCECF’s 2019 issue brief AttendaNCe Counts: How Schools and Local Communities are Reducing Chronic Absence in North Carolina outlines results from a survey through EducationNC’s Reach NC Voices platform of 1,500 NC parents, preschool staff, elementary school staff and community providers, who shared their impressions of their local attendance policies and practices. In addition to analyzing the survey data and making recommendations for action, the report shares bright spots of schools and communities in NC that are already reducing chronic absence.
In addition, NCECF released the 2019 AttendaNCe Counts Toolkit, which equips schools and communities with useful resources to get the word out about the importance of regular school attendance and need to reduce chronic absence, starting when children are young and in preschool. The toolkit includes a fact sheet with data and research highlights, an Attendance Awareness Month Proclamation for superintendents to sign, and social media tools including images and suggested posts.
A monthly blog series throughout the 2019-20 school year will share best practices to help schools and communities develop targeted strategies to reduce chronic absenteeism, based on the NC survey data in the 2019 report. The blog series will be published in EdNC and on the NCECF website.
Governor Cooper has declared September Attendance Awareness Month for NC, and more than 60 superintendents (and counting) have committed “to focusing on reducing chronic absenteeism to give all children an equitable opportunity to learn, grow and thrive academically, emotional and socially.”
Learn more about why regular school attendance matters and what we can do about it on NCECF’s Regular School Attendance issue page.