Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism


Chronic absenteeism—or missing at least 10 percent of school days in a school year for any reason, excused or unexcused—is a primary cause of low academic achievement and a powerful predictor of those students who may eventually drop out of school. An estimated five to seven and a half million students miss 18 or more days of school each year, or nearly an entire month or more of school, which puts them at significant risk of falling behind academically and failing to graduate from high school. Because they miss so much school, millions of young people miss out on opportunities in post-secondary education and good careers.

Chronic absenteeism is also an equity issue, and it is particularly prevalent among students who are low-income, students of color, students with disabilities, students who are highly mobile, and/or juvenile justice-involved youth—in other words, those who already tend to face significant challenges and for whom school is particularly beneficial. Moreover, chronic absenteeism is often confused with truancy, which can lead to disproportionate suspensions and expulsions from school and inappropriate referrals of students and families to law enforcement.

In response and in support of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK), the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) are launching Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism to support coordinated community action that addresses the underlying causes of local chronic absenteeism affecting millions of children in our Nation’s public schools each year. We believe that when a diverse coalition of local stakeholders work together to engage and support students who are chronically absent, youth and family outcomes of entire communities can be dramatically improved. In short, we believe chronic absenteeism in communities is a solvable problem.

ED, HHS, HUD, and DOJ, as part of the Every Student, Every Day initiative, are pleased to release the following resources:

  • Dear Colleague Letter to States, School Districts and Community on the need to reduce chronic absenteeism by at least 10% each year.
  • Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. This Toolkit offers information, suggested action steps, and lists of existing tools and resources—including evidence-based resources—for individuals, leaders, and systems to begin or enhance the work of effective, coordinated community action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism, including actions steps for:
    • Youth
    • Parents and Families
    • Mentors and Volunteers
    • School District Superintendents and Staff, and School Personnel
    • Early Learning Providers
    • Health Care, Public Health & Human Service Agencies & Providers
    • Public Housing Authorities
    • Juvenile Justice and Law Enforcement
    • Homeless Services Providers
    • Mayors and Local Government
    • Community, Faith-Based, and Philanthropic Organizations
  • White House Fact Sheet that includes additional details on Every Student, Every Day, including information on upcoming activities, technical assistance, and events.
  • Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence. The U.S. Department of Education, Attendance Works, Everybody Graduates Center and United Way Worldwide invite you to attend Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence on Nov. 12. This online summit will outline key steps that states, districts and communities can take to improve student achievement by monitoring and reducing chronic absence. Featuring two of the nation’s premiere experts on absenteeism: Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Balfanz and Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang, this virtual summit will:
    • Explain the importance of looking beyond average daily attendance rates to identify students who are missing so much school that they are falling behind academically.
    • Share strategies that work for improving attendance and achievement, including positive messaging, family outreach, student incentives and mentoring programs.
    • Highlight the importance of engaging community partners, such as, health providers and criminal justice agencies.

Balfanz and Chang will also introduce school district leaders who are using these strategies to improve attendance and achievement. The summit is hosted by the United Way Worldwide.

Source: US Department of Education

Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/chronicabsenteeism/index.html

Chronic Absenteeism in Kindergarten 


At the end of every school year, after all my kindergarten students had finished their last day celebrations and hurried off to pursue their summer adventures, I would reflect on the success stories of the year. There was that one student who entered kindergarten knowing only a handful of letter names and left reading complete sentences, or another who decided that math was actually pretty fun once she realized she was able to add and subtract all on her own. And, of course, there were also a couple of students who didn’t meet the lofty ambitions I had set for them back in September. These students were unable to strengthen their early reading and math skills to the level needed to enter first grade ready for new challenges. After a couple of years teaching I started to notice a pattern among many of my low-performing students: they missed school, a lot of school. Not a few days here and there due to illness, but days or even weeks at a time when their spot on the carpet would be vacant and their friends would ask about their whereabouts.

It turns out that the attendance issues in my kindergarten classroom were not an anomaly, but the norm. At least 10 percent of kindergartners and first graders nationwide are chronically absent from school, according to a report last month by Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign. The same study found that low-income kindergartners were four times more likely to be chronically absent than their more affluent peers. These chronically absent students miss at least eighteen days of school per year, translating into almost a month of missed instructional time. In California, kindergarten students are the most likely of any elementary school students to be chronically absent. Specifically, 14.2 percent of California kindergartners are chronically absent compared to just 8.8 percent of first graders. In Rhode Island, sixteen percent of kindergartners are chronically absent compared to ten percent of third graders.

This chronic absenteeism among kindergarten students has serious consequences. Students who are chronically absent in the vital early grades of pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade, according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago. A recent report from the California Attorney General found that eighty-three percent of chronically absent California kindergartners and first graders were unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade. It’s now well-understood that students who fail to read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than skilled readers to drop out of high school. And Rhode Island found that chronically absent kindergartners not only had lower levels of math and literacy achievement as far out as the seventh grade, but were also twice as likely to be retained.

There is good news among all these sobering statistics, however. On Wednesday, in recognition of the fact that chronic absenteeism is a major cause of low academic achievement throughout the nation, the Obama Administration announced the launch of the Every Student, Every Day initiative. According to the Department of Education, an estimated five to seven and a half million students are chronically absent each year in America’s schools. The Every Student, Every Day initiative aims to reduce chronic absenteeism by at least ten percent each school year, beginning with the current year. The initiative calls on state and local agencies and organizations to work together to identify and support chronically absent students. As part of the initiative the Administration released a community toolkit that provides information and resources to help community stakeholders work to reduce student absenteeism.

So what immediate actions can be taken to reduce chronic absenteeism? First, states have to do a better job of tracking and sharing student absence data. Information about chronic absence should be easily accessible online so that stakeholders are able to identify specific schools and student groups in need of assistance. Seven states, including California, currently do not collect attendance information in its longitudinal student database. However, Hawaii, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are a few of the growing number of state departments of education that are calculating and sharing data regarding chronic student absence. More states should follow their lead so that the extent of the absenteeism problem in each state is better understood.

Another action that can be immediately taken to reduce absenteeism, especially in kindergarten, is to shift the focus of school districts away from punishment for excessive absences and towards an attitude of absence prevention through increased parental engagement. The recent California Attorney General study found widespread parent misperceptions about the importance of attendance in the early grades. Specifically, many parents reported feeling that early grade attendance isn’t as important as high school attendance due to the mistaken belief that students will catch up before they get to high school. Intentional efforts to discuss with parents the link between consistent attendance in kindergarten and later academic success could go a long way in clearing up such misperceptions.

Real academic gains can’t happen without consistent student attendance, no matter how skilled the teacher might be. Better attendance data at the state level combined with targeted parent outreach at the school level can go a long way towards decreasing chronic absences and ensuring that all children make significant academic gains during the school year. No student should miss out on a quality early education just because they don’t show up.

Source: EdCentral

Available at: http://www.edcentral.org/absence/

“Association of a Full-Day vs Part-Day Preschool Intervention With School Readiness, Attendance, and Parent Involvement”


What is the study about?

This study examined whether children enrolled in a full-day preschool program scored higher on school readiness measures and had higher attendance rates than children who attended the same schools but participated in the part-day preschool program. The programs were part of an expansion and update of the Child-Parent Center (CPC) Education Program, a long-standing school-based program that combines comprehensive education and family services and had previously been implemented as a part-day program only. This study focused on 11 schools in Chicago that implemented both the full-day and part-day updated versions of the CPC programs.

What did the study report?

The authors reported that children participating in a full-day program scored higher than children in a part-day program, by a statistically significant margin, on four of the six school readiness indicators from the standardized Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment System, including language, math, social-emotional development, and physical health. The authors also reported statistically significant improvements in attendance.How does the WWC rate this study?The study uses a quasi-experimental design to compare the performance of children in the intervention (full-day) and comparison (part-day) groups. However, the groups were not equivalent at the start of the intervention. When children were selected to participate in the full-day program, 4-year-olds were given priority over 3-year-olds, so the groups, on average, are not equivalent. Therefore, this study does not meet WWC group design standards.1

Source: What Works Clearinghouse

Available at: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/quickreview.aspx

Health Services to Promote Attendance


From the first day of enrollment, a young child’s attendance matters! Good attendance leads to lifelong learning and positive habits necessary for school and work. When young children are chronically absent from Head Start, Early Head Start, or child care, often they are likely to continue to be chronically absent in elementary school.1 Others may drop-out as they get older.2 Absenteeism decreases children’s opportunity to engage in learning, impacting their development in all domains of the Child Development and Early Learning Framework. (See Making the Link Between Health and School Readiness to learn more about the impact of health on child development).

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

Available at: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/health/school-readiness/strategies/promoting-attendance.html

Letter for the Administration for Children and Families

September 2014

Dear Colleagues,

As parents all over the country help their children pack their book bags for the start of school, this is a perfect time to reflect on one of the most important influencers of achievement: attendance. September is Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide recognition of the importance of attendance on development, learning, and academic achievement.

We have known for a long time that regular attendance in school is important for children’s success. We are now learning how important regular attendance is even in the earliest years. Research suggests that chronic absenteeism in preschool can predict chronic absenteeism in the later grades and consequent risk for academic underachievement. For example, one study found that about 25 percent of students who were chronically absent in Pre-K and kindergarten were retained in later grades, compared to nine percent of their regularly attending peers.(1) That’s a big disparity. A child’s first educational setting, whether in Head Start, child care, or preschool may be where children begin to form lifelong habits and routines. While some young children and families may face barriers to regular attendance, it is crucial that programs work with parents to do everything possible to help children get to their early learning program.

The reasons children are absent often relate to factors overwhelming to families in poverty—transportation issues, irregular work schedules, chronic health problems, or unstable housing. Also, some families think of early education as primarily child care and are unaware of the importance or regular attendance.

So what can you do help improve attendance in your program?

  1. Use data: Track attendance and use the data to identify chronically absent children. Chronic absenteeism is defined as being absent 10 percent of the time, whether the days are consecutive or sporadic they all add up!(2) Keep in mind that only looking at class averages may mask attendance concerns for individual children, so be sure to look at individual and class-wide patterns. By monitoring attendance closely, you can identify at-risk children and intervene early.  Avoid policies that result in dropping or dis-enrolling children without ensuring the cause of low attendance has been identified and every effort has been made to resolve the problem.
  2. Let children and families know you are concerned: Family relationships with caregivers are key. Children and families may be more encouraged to come to school if they know they will be met with people who care about their wellbeing. Children should feel included, safe, and loved and families should feel supported and heard. By fostering relationships between the caregiver and the child and the family, we can make school a more desirable place to be. When frequent absences are unavoidable due to chronic health problems or child custody issues, for example, work with parents to support the child’s learning when they can’t come to the center.
  3. Identify factors contributing to absenteeism: When you identify chronically absent children, talk to their families about it. Try to identify the barriers to their regular attendance. Connect to community resources that canoffer stability to families, like transportation, housing, or health assistance, as needed. These factors, among many others, may be contributing to chronic absenteeism.
  4. Communicate how good attendance contributes to early learning: The benefits of preschool and rich early learning opportunities have been well established by the research over the past several decades. However, preschool and in many cases, even kindergarten, is voluntary. Make sure families know the value of what children are learning at such young ages. It is during these first years that children build the foundation for how and what they will learn for the rest of their academic careers and beyond.

Early learning programs can partner with their community and work with families to assure all of their needs are met and they are able to bring their children to their early care and education center regularly. Programs should also visit Attendance Works for helpful resources to improve attendance. A nationwide movement to improve attendance is an important strategy to help eliminate educational disparities, including the achievement gap. During Attendance Awareness Month, we are asking you to join us in this nationwide movement.

/s/ Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families
/s/ Shannon L. Rudisill, Director, Office of Child Care
/s/ Ann Linehan, Acting Director, Office of Head Start


Making the Link Between Health and School Readiness Webinar

Thursday, April 10, 2014
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST
Register Now!

Join the Head Start National Center on Health (NCH) for a webinar that explores health services and their impact on school readiness and child attendance. This webinar will provide you with health strategies that you can include in health services and school readiness plans. In addition, you will learn ways you can improve health services that support child attendance.

Topics for the webinar include:

  • Review existing NCH school readiness activities
  • Introduce a new NCH resource, “Making the Link Between Health and School Readiness,” to support program school readiness activities
  • Consider how health services can support school readiness by improving attendance
  • Reflect on opportunities for you and your program to receive more support through the NCH

Who Should Participate?

This webinar will benefit an array of audience members, including Head Start and Early Head Start center directors, health managers, education managers, family services managers, Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC) members, and other members of the school readiness team.

How to Register

Participation is free. Select this link to register: https://goto.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1032095

After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email with information on how to join the webinar on Thursday April 10. This presentation will be recorded and archived on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) for later viewing.

Certificate of Participation

Participants will receive a certificate of participation upon completion on an online evaluation. A link to the evaluation will be available when the webinar closes. Participants must complete it in order to receive a certificate. Only participants in the live presentation will be eligible.


For more information, contact NCH at nchinfo@aap.org or (toll-free) 1-888-227-5125.


Preparing the Children of Immigrants for Early Academic Success


A preponderance of evidence points to an Immigrant paradox in education: the children of immigrants perform better than expected and often even outperform their peers with US-born parents. However, this evidence is largely drawn from high school students. Data on the performance of children entering elementary school is more mixed, often pointing to greater risks among the children of immigrants.

School readiness-the skills children bring with them at kindergarten entry – is a particular cause of concern, especially for those with Latin American origins. Findings regarding the health of young immigrant children are similarly mixed, and also depart from the immigrant paradox. As with educational performance, children of immigrants appear to be more at risk for health problems during the preschool and elementary school years than during adolescence. Health problems during early childhood may be associated with poorer educational performance, as children are more likely to be absent and less likely to be fully attentive in school when sick.

Source: Migration Policy Institute

Available at: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/COI-EarlyAcademicSuccess.pdf

Right from the Beginning: Early Childhood Strategies for Reducing Chronic Absence

Attendance Works Peer Learning Network Webinar
Co-sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families

February 27, 2-3:30 ET / 11-12:30 PT

Register Now

Find out why attendance starting in Pre-K matters for academic success, and how early childhood programs can build a culture of attendance and help young children set the foundation for future learning.

Our featured presenters include:

Louise Weiner, President and Founder of Leadership and Learning with Families, will discuss how the Perfectly Punctual Campaign marshaled the efforts of Head Start teachers, aides, and parent volunteers to create a new mindset about the impact of attendance and punctuality on school readiness.

Cecilia Robinson, Senior Director of Early Childhood Programs, and Cindy Decker, Senior Research Associate for Data and Accountability from the Community Action Project of Tulsa County, which manages Head Start and Early Head Start programs as well as the Oklahoma State Pilot Program serving children birth to three. In addition to describing their promising attendance practices, they will discuss the impact of improved attendance on early literacy development.

Sandra Gutierrez, National Director of Families in Schools, will talk about how her organization’s Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum has been used in 28 states to educate Latino parents about their key role in their children’s early years of education, and to empower parents to act as their children’s advocates. Learn about how Abriendo Puertas is now integrating attention to attendance into its 10 week curriculum.

Register Now, so you don’t miss out.