Utah Promotes Attendance Awareness Month


Utah Promotes Attendance Awareness Month: September 2014

SALT LAKE CITY – As many as 7.5 million U.S. students are chronically absent each year, meaning they miss 10 percent of the school year or nearly a month of school. These absences — whether they are excused, unexcused or for disciplinary reasons — add up to academic trouble and reduce the likelihood that a student will graduate from high school. The Utah State Office of Education, in conjunction with Attendance Works, Voices for Utah Children, REL West at WestEd, Utah Education Policy Center (UEPC) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is announcing the first Utah Attendance Awareness Month for September 2014.

Chronic absence matters beginning in the early grades and contributes to the academic achievement gap. Missing school has profound implications on the socio-economic vitality of our communities.

Why Addressing Chronic Absence Matters:

  • Poor attendance habits are often acquired early and can leave children unable to master reading by the end of third grade, setting them up for academic struggles later. A study conducted by the UEPC showed that first, second, and third grade students in Utah who were chronically absent during the school year were significantly less likely to read on grade level at the end of the year.
  • One in 10 kindergarteners and first graders are chronically absent.
  • An analysis conducted by Attendance Works found that chronic absence in first grade predicted later chronic absence, poor academic performance and higher suspension rates in the sixth grade.
  • As early as sixth grade, absenteeism can predict whether a student will drop out. Other early indicators include poor grades in core courses and behavior leading to suspensions.
  • Even students who miss just 10 days a year are less likely to graduate or to enroll in college. The Utah study found that a student who is chronically absent in any year between eighth and twelfth grade is 7.4 times more likely to drop out.  The study also showed that the effects were cumulative with the odds of dropping out doubling each year the student was chronically absent.

Chronic absence can be reduced when schools, community agencies and families work together to build a habit of attending school every day and to reduce barriers to school attendance . Examples of how schools, cities, and states can accomplish this can be found on the Attendance Works website at: www.attendanceworks.org/attendancemonth.

On September 18, 2014, an Every Day Counts Policy Forum with invited Utah policymakers, educators, and community leaders will be held to increase knowledge of the prevalence, causes, and consequences of and promising responses to chronic absenteeism, to collaboratively make recommendations for state- and district-level policies and practices, and to explore community partnerships that can support improved school attendance and student success.




Related posts:

2 comments to Utah Promotes Attendance Awareness Month

  • Autumn Cook

    I appreciate the good intentions of those pushing an effort to reduce all absences, but the whole movement is misguided, and there are two major problems with the studies used to promote this approach.

    1. The studies’ validity is highly questionable. The studies do NOT distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. We all know from experience that there is a big difference between the two, yet they are being treated the same and lumped together. We truly have no idea whether having many excused absences has a negative effect on academic achievement because no study has distinguished those absences from the other kind – the unexcused absences, which certainly DO have a negative effect.

    2. This whole movement is operating on the amateur statistician’s blunder: confusing correlation with causation. There is plenty of evidence that lower attendance correlates with trouble in school, but there hasn’t been any research done to eliminate other possible causes for that trouble and prove that lower attendance actually CAUSES trouble in school. Trying to reduce all absences based on this blunder – when there are many kinds of absences which are beneficial for a child’s development – is bad public policy.

  • K Derby

    In reply to Autumn, there is now an intentional push to include BOTH excused and unexcused absences, because the point is that children are missing class time and other learning opportunities — and that is the problem. Whether it’s for sports or a vacation or volunteer work or just skipping class without a parent’s knowledge, if a child misses an important math concept, all the following lessons that build on that concept can be a challenge. It also disrupts other students’ learning when a teacher has to try to catch up those kids who missed the previous day(s). Further, even students with good grades who miss a fair amount of school have much higher rates of dropout.

    I do hear you regarding causation and correlation — it is the case that many kids who miss a lot of school have lot of other challenges related to health and poverty that can affect grades and graduation. And I think it is much more important to address those root causes that put so many of our kids at a disadvantage!

    But a casual family attitude about commitment, perseverance, and learning could bleed into how a student approaches schoolwork and later performance, so it seems worth the effort to build a culture of attendance. Even high school graduates who matriculate to a postsecondary institution — but who were chronically absent — tend to miss more college classes, get lower grades, and obtain degrees at a lower rate than their peers (according to new research in Utah).

    The main point is you can’t learn if you’re not in school.