Jamestown Schools To Raise Awareness About Chronic Absenteeism

JAMESTOWN – Jamestown Public Schools are joining a nationwide effort to promote Attendance Awareness Month, saying regular attendance is one key to academic success.
The schools will promote the value of attending school on a regular basis and combat chronic absenteeism in the new school year.
“Starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower third grade reading scores. By middle school it’s a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school,” said JPS Chief Director of Schools Tina Sandstrom. “In Jamestown schools last year, we had over 1,700 students who were chronically absent. That adds up to a lot of missed educational opportunities. As a district, we are dedicated to finding out the reasons why a student is missing school and try to help them overcome any challenges so that they are here, learning every day.”
JPS officials said good attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent, they said. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days – for any reason, excused or unexcused. That’s the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance, research shows. Nationally, 5 million to 7.5 million miss nearly a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year.
Chronic absence disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools, officials said. This is not just a matter of truancy. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves—barriers that city agencies and community partners can help families address.
“We know that we will never narrow the achievement gap or reduce our dropout rate until we bring this problem under control, and that means starting early,” said JPS Superintendent Bret Apthorpe. “All our efforts to improve curriculum and instruction won’t matter much if kids aren’t in school. Ensuring that our kids are able to get to school everyday and learn is a priority for our district.”
“Research shows that students who miss two to four days in the first month of school are more likely to become chronically absent during the school year,” said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national nonprofit dedicated to improve school attendance By paying attention to absences early in the school year and early in a child’s academic career, we can turn around attendance and achievement.”