Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School held a Spirit Week to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month. Among the themes were Pirate Day, Shades Day and Superhero Day. Students, including fifth graders Monique Daniel, left, Logan Burroughs and Todd Williams Jr., dressed as their favorite superheroes.
LA PLATA, Md. (Sept. 26, 2016)—Missing a school day here or there can be managed with some focused catch-up, but chronic absenteeism—missing at least 10 percent, or 18 days a school year—widens a gulf that many cannot bridge.
Over time, gaps in a child's education as a result of not showing up—excused or not—may result in falling behind academically and failing to graduate.
September is Attendance Awareness Month. Nationwide, more than 3 million, or 18 percent, of high school students were chronically absent in 2013-14, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection. By high school, regular attendance is a better dropout indicator than test scores, the data revealed. "A student who is chronically absent in any school year between the eighth and 12th grade is seven times more likely to drop out of school," the report read.
Missing days from high school can be learned behavior for a student who was chronically absent in elementary and middle school.
"Trends start in elementary school and it becomes a pattern," Sheri Morrison, pupil personnel worker for Indian Head and Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy elementary schools, said. A student racking up one or two absences a month as a youngster will likely carry the trait on to middle and high school. "They miss so many opportunities," Morrison said.
"The gaps in their education are hard to make up," said William Miller, principal of Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy. "When they get older, it's even harder to fill those gaps."
To excite students, Mt. Hope and Indian Head held a Spirit Week Sept. 12 to 15. Students took part in Shades Day by wearing their favorite sunglasses. Hat Day, Pirate Day and Super Hero Day also were held.
Every Student, Every Day is a national initiative to address and combat chronic absenteeism. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Justice, the program aims to address chronic absenteeism among vulnerable students.
According to the education department's reports, more than 3 million high school students -18 percent of all high school students in the country—are chronically absent with African Americans making up 22 percent, multiracial students 21 percent and Latino students coming in at 20 percent absent for 18 or more days per school year.
More than 3.5 million elementary school students, which is 11 percent of their population, are chronically absent each year. According to the report, African American elementary school students are 1.4 times more likely to be chronically absent than their white peers.
In Charles County, more than 2,300 children missed 20 or more days of school in 2015-16, said Sue DelaCruz, supervising Pupil Personnel Worker. "That works out to an entire month of school," she said. "Many parents don't realize that missing one or two days a month leads to 20 or more days in one school year."
Children between the ages of 5 and 17 are required by law to attend school, DelaCruz said. Parents who do not ensure that their children are in school every day and on time, can be charged, she added.
"Every day of school that [a] child misses is a missed opportunity for emotional and intellectual growth," DelaCruz said. "Make-up work does not replace the instruction and discussions that occur in the classroom."