We've always known that one of the keys to combating chronic absence is making sure everyone understands the problem. In recent weeks, we've had several breakthroughs. Just last month, a study from Get Schooled and Johns Hopkins University documented that as many as 7.5 million students nationwide are chronically absent. Earlier this month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution urging mayors to champion school attendance. Later this week, several cities that have been setting the pace for reducing chronic absence will be honored. On top of that, there's great research going on across the country. We worked with the Data Quality Campaign to highlight state-level studies on a webinar last week. And, in today's newsletter, we feature two studies exemplifying how local research can add to what we know about who is adversely affected by poor attendance.

Hedy Chang

Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success. It aims to ensure that every school in every state not only tracks chronic absence data for its individual students but also partners with families and community agencies to help those children.

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Mayors Urged to Target School Attendance

The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution on June 16 urging mayors to raise awareness of the pernicious effects of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and engage the community to help parents get children to school regularly.

The resolution, introduced by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras with support from 12 other mayors, cites Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ambitious work to reduce absenteeism in New York City and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's broad efforts to persuade communities across the country to start paying attention to chronic absence as part of a strategy to improve literacy in the early grades.

"For our cities to close the achievement gap and reduce dropout rates, we must get a handle on chronic absenteeism at every level," Mayor Taveras said. "No matter how much we improve our schools, it won't matter if kids are not in their seats to benefit."

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Webinar Highlights Need for Better State Policies

A webinar we co-hosted with The Data Quality Campaign on June 22 highlighted the power of attendance data to spell out the need for policy change on a state level. Using Attendance Data to Inform Policy and Practice featured researchers from Oregon and Indiana who have tapped state data for a big-picture view of chronic absence as well as Oakland Unified School District which illustrates what is possible even when attendance is not tracked on a state data system.

Communities Honored as PaceSetters for Tackling Chronic Absence

Five communities across the country—from New England to the Mexican border—will be recognized this weekend as PaceSetters for their work addressing chronic absence in the early grades. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is bringing together 124 communities that have committed to improve early literacy and honoring 25 of them for work that has already begun. In the area of attendance , special recognition will go to: Baltimore; Chula Vista, Calif.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; New York City; and Springfield, Mass.

The PaceSetter honors come amid the Campaign's national conference in Denver from June 30-July 2. Attendance Works will host several sessions at the conference to help more communities track chronic absence and use the data to intervene when students are missing too much school.

Powerful New Tools Make Tracking Chronic Absence in The Elementary Grades a Snap

Attendance Works is releasing new data tools that all schools, districts and communities can use to track chronic absence in the elementary grades. After piloting the tools, we can now offer the K-5 District Attendance Tracking Tool (K-5 DATT) and its companion, the K-5 School Attendance Tracking Tool to all communities free of charge.

Designed for districts with fewer than 65,000 elementary students, these easy-to-use tools are self-calculating Excel spreadsheets that allow users to load attendance data from their local student information system and generate reports showing patterns of chronic absence. The reports provide a snapshot district-wide by school, grade, race/ethnicity and gender, as well as for English Language Learners and students who qualify for special education or free and reduced meals. In addition, users can identify schools that are outliers—either at risk because of high rates of chronic absence or showing promise because of low rates. Finally, the tools create a list of individual students missing excessive days of school.

To use the K-5 DATT and K-5 SATT, register here.

Local studies Offer New Insights into Who is Affected by Chronic Absence

Two recent studies show how chronic absence data can tease out patterns and problems in local school districts. Researchers at Stanford University conducted an analysis in Redwood City, a city of about 80,000 midway between San Francisco and San Jose, and found that, the highest rates of chronic absenteeism were among kindergarten and 12th grade students in the Redwood City School District. The study also demonstrated the academic effects that chronic absence has across age groups The largest factor in whether a student was chronically absent was chronic absence status in the prior year.

In Oakland, Calif., researchers from Urban Strategies Council focused on attendance trends for African-American boys in a report released last month. The analysis found that they were almost twice as likely as the general Oakland Unified School District population, and more than three times as likely as White boys, to be chronically absent.

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An estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year, a trend that goes largely unnoticed despite the devastating effects on student achievement, according to a report released in May.

Adding Up The Cost Of Florida's Absenteeism, State Impact, May 22, 2012

Education Report: Chronic Absenteeism Undermines Over 5 Million Students, Huffington Post, May 17, 2012

Study: One in 10 Students Misses a Month of School, Education Week, May 17, 2012

San Diego Unified Singled Out As Attendance Boosting Model, KPBS April 3, 2012


For more information contact: info@attendanceworks.org or
Attendance Works Director
Hedy Chang at hedy@attendanceworks.org.

Attendance Works would like to express its deep appreciation to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for investing in our development and launch as a national initiative. In addition, we thank The San Francisco Foundation and The California Endowment for supporting our campaign in California.