Providence, R.I.

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First they crunched the numbers: one in five of the students at Robert Bailey IV Elementary School was missing at least 18 days. Then the teachers started making calls to parents. What they found has helped guide their intervention and bring down the rate of absences in the Providence school.

One emerging pattern was that parents working the overnight shift were falling asleep before taking their children to school. So the school began offering an early care and breakfast program, and parents began bringing students in after their night shifts ended.

Other children, though, faced a far more complex web of barriers keeping them from getting to school. As part of Making Connections, an initiative funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, advocates began using chronic absence data to tip them off to children and families who needed more support.

With a federal grant, the Making Connections team now has the resources to pay for transportation to bring children to school, as well as family counseling and home visits. This effectively creates a system of wraparound services for the most vulnerable children and families.

At Bailey, the rate of chronically absent students dropped from 21 percent to 10 percent in a four-year period, though it climbed back up in the 2010-11 school year. The elementary school’s reading scores, rose, with 59 percent read on grade level in 2010, compared to 28 percent in 2006, according to state test results. These results dropped as chronic absence rose the following yar.

KIDS COUNT Rhode Island is also adding early chronic absence to their Kids Count Fact Book.