Aug. 26, 2013 — As 55 million students return to U.S. schools this fall, 40 national organizations and as many as 900 schools and community groups are sounding the alarm about a crisis of absenteeism that is eroding academic achievement and putting students at greater risk of dropping out.

Research shows that 5 million to 7.5 million students are missing nearly a month of school every year and that these absences – excused or unexcused – add up to academic trouble. Too many absences in the early grades can leave children unable to master reading by the end of third grade, a key indicator of school success. By middle and high school, chronic absence becomes a red flag that a student may not graduate from high school.

“If we want to narrow achievement gaps and improve graduation rates, we’ve got to turn the tide on chronic absenteeism,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “That starts with parents and teachers building a culture of good attendance. It means school administrators paying attention to attendance data and intervening when students and schools are headed off track. And it means policymakers giving schools and families the tools they need to curb absences.”

During the first-ever nationwide recognition of Attendance Awareness Month:

  • New research documenting the effects of chronic absenteeism as early as prekindergarten will be released Sept. 3 by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

  • A nationwide contest will launch Sept. 3 allowing middle and high school students to log their attendance on (a joint initiative of Get Schooled and the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens) to compete for a visit from celebrities connected to Viacom.

  • A national Boost Attendance ad campaign – “Absences Add Up,” with public service announcements, a new Text2Track SMS program and other materials will launch Aug. 29. This Ad Council campaign is part of the BoostUp initiative supported by the U.S. Army.

  • A “Twitter Party” featuring attendance experts and using the campaign’s hashtag, #SchoolEveryDay, will be hosted on Sept. 10 from 1-2 pm ET by America’s Promise Alliance in partnership with the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens and State Farm.

  • A policy brief documenting best practices and recommendations for state-level action will be released Sept. 16 by Attendance Works. A webinar to discuss the brief will be hosted by Alliance for Excellent Education at 1-2:30 pm ET on the same day.

  • Schools and community groups across the country are hosting events, issuing proclamations, launching contests and more. An interactive map shows what’s happening, with everyone from governors to an NFL running back promoting the value of good attendance.

Find out more about the Challenge Five strategy, including how to download a free toolkit, on the Believe 2 Become website.

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