Chronic absenteeism remains a problem, says Rhode Island Kids Count

PROVIDENCE – Chronic absenteeism in school among Rhode Island’s youngest students is a persistent problem that needs to be addressed, according to new data released Monday by Rhode Island Kids Count.
The release of the data, which was embargoed, was to be officially presented from noon to 2 p.m. Monday at 1 Union Station by Rhode Island Kids Count, The Providence Plan and the Rhode Island Data Sharing Project to educators, policymakers and community leaders. September is Attendance Awareness Month.
During the 2013 to 2014 academic year, chronic absenteeism, in which students miss 10 percent or more of a school year, measured 16 percent for the state’s kindergarten students, 12 percent for first-graders, and 10 percent for both second-graders and third-graders, said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count. Among low income children in kindergarten through third grades, 19 percent were chronically absent, compared with 5 percent for higher-income kids in those grades, she added.
In addition, 74 percent of kindergartners during the 2004 to 2005 school year who were chronically absent were chronically absent in subsequent years, suggesting that patterns established early persist, she said.
“Chronic absence is a multi-faceted issue that affects children in every city and town in Rhode Island,” Bryant said. “Leaders and parents need to work together at the state and community level to address the root causes of chronic absenteeism, while paying particular attention to low-income children. We’re excited to bring together educators, policy makers and community leaders to discuss the problem of chronic absence, as well as how to implement policies and programs that will improve attendance – and outcomes – for young children.”
The data was culled through the RI DataHUB, a secure data warehouse and research and policy tool that links data and resources from state agencies and partner organizations. The goal is to help policy makers and practitioners understand key issues and make informed decisions.
“Data stories like this one on the negative effects of chronic absence in kindergarten on future educational success shine a light on a problem we all need to work to solve together,” said Patrick McGuigan, executive director of the Providence Plan.
Reducing early chronic absence in Rhode Island is a key strategy for improving reading proficiency by the end of third grade, said Bryant. Three recommendations to get there include:
Developing systems that provide frequent reports on student absenteeism at the state, district and school levels so appropriate strategies for intervention can be identified;
Monitoring attendance regularly, contacting parents as soon as patterns of absence appear and intervening early; and
Nurturing a “culture of attendance” by working closely with parents to reinforce the importance of regular attendance.

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