Fixing Chronic Absenteeism in America’s Schools
According to recent studies, 1 in 7 American students or about 8 million students stay absent in school for up to a month, and these figures continue to grow. Chronic absenteeism is a huge problem in our schools that has severe consequences.
Elementary school students and below, who’re chronically absent, have stunted development and miss educational milestones. Chronic absenteeism in secondary school students increases their possibility of dropping out of high school. This trend follows these students into adulthood and paves the way for detrimental behavior reports, like substance abuse from the Department of Education. Such behavior could also hinder any attempts made by these adults to improve their socioeconomic status, like being able to continue with a job. So, how can we encourage students to attend school?
Begin at Home
Communicate with parents and family members to drive home the significance of attendance while clarifying the adverse consequences of chronic absences for the student. To understand if anything on the home front keeps a student away from school, discussing the conditions of the home can help. When educators work closely with family and have open communication, they can encourage parents to become more involved in their child’s education and ensure the kid goes to school regularly. Additionally, by giving the parents a chance to collaborate with a direct individual or caseworker, schools can make them feel supported and, thus, willing to play their role at home.
Make the Schools Answerable
Schools should set up dedicated teams for improving student attendance. This team will contact student families regularly to stay updated on students. Additionally, they’ll analyze collected data related to absences, assemble useful resources, and help connect students and their families to the faculty, staff, and other associated personnel.
Schools should also have a student-friendly setting and evaluate their environment by considering their resources, facilities, curriculum, teacher performance, after-school programs, and educator-staff relationships. To check bullying, which is a major contributor to chronic absenteeism, schools should meticulously track the relationships between students.
In addition, schools should recognize good attendance through prizes, awards, and celebrate academic improvements, such as better scores, higher grades, etc.
Get the Community Involved
Schools and communities should join hands and arrange mentoring programs, in addition to working with health groups and city transit departments to give students and their families diverse paths to pursue beyond school. To adequately support absentee students, they can be connected to adults or other youths and held responsible for their school attendance.
Establish Relevant Policies
The ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) was passed in 2015 by the Department of Education to deal with chronic absenteeism in schools. This federal law necessitates school districts to report chronic absences in their yearly reports. States were made responsible for maintaining accountability when reporting school absences. However, when implementing this federal law, it was left to the States to create their own policy. Next, when policy reached the districts, it was left up to them to decide the details. This trickle-down effect means the definition of an “absence” differs from state to state and district to district. Thus, the collected information isn’t always correct or consistent.
Districts and schools must collaborate to set up goals to build and maintain better attendance and be held accountable to continue focusing their efforts on accomplishing the goal.
Chronic absenteeism must be addressed at every level through group effort, right from the top with policymaking to districts, schools, communities, and finally, the home. When all these segments collaborate, chronic absenteeism can be reduced.