The chronic absenteeism crisis part 2: What can administrators do?

William Woods EDU

Students who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read at grade level by third grade, reports the Ad Council, and students who are not at reading level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Furthermore, the Ad Council recently released a research finding that though 86 percent of parents understand their child’s absence from school hinders their chance of graduating, 49 percent of parents believe that it is okay for their child to miss three or more days of school per month and that they will not fall behind.

In a previous Look Into Education blog, we discussed the rise of chronic absenteeism in schools across the nation and what teachers are doing at the classroom level to combat this issue.

For those in their Masters of Education in Administration, Doctorate in Educational Leadership or Education Specialist in Administration degree at William Woods, below are a few examples of action being taken at the school level by education leaders to reduce absenteeism.

St. Louis, Missouri
One elementary school principal, Melody Gunn, visited the homes of chronically absent students to get to the bottom of the issue. Surprisingly, she found that many students were missing school because they did not have a laundry machine at their home and they were too embarrassed to show up in a dirty uniform.

In response, Principal Gunn called Whirlpool, who agreed to donate some washers and dryers to the school, and they began holding open hours where parents and students could use free laundry services.

The result: a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in parent engagement.

Baltimore, Maryland
Mark Gaither, an elementary school principal, stands outside his school every morning, rain or shine, making sure every student and family dropping their kid off is greeted with a “good morning.” It is this kid-by-kid approach that led to a decrease in absences throughout the school.

Principal Gaither knew another important element to this issue was a lack of parent engagement and awareness. In response, he opened the school library every Monday to parents who want to visit — they can check out books, help kids with their homework and get familiar with the school.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mel Atkins, Executive Director of Community and Students for the Grand Rapids Public Schools, crunched the numbers and found that of 17,000 students in the district, 7,000 were missing a month or more of school each year.

That’s when he and his team developed the Challenge 5 initiative, asking students to strive for less than five absences a school year. The community rallied around them, hanging posters with the statistics and slogan in schools, churches and store-front windows. They also created something called Parent University — a set of online and in-school classes for adults to learn about ways to keep kids in school.

Through those efforts and so many more, now 3,600 of those 7,000 kids in Grand Rapids public schools are no longer chronically absent.

The video below is part of the Absences Add Up campaign, an effort by the U.S. department of Education, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ad Council to increase awareness of the real danger that absenteeism can have to a student’s education.

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