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 County Board of Education Recognizes September as Attendance Awareness Month

​Students who miss school frequently are more likely to drop out of high school, have low grades, and have problems with reading proficiency, studies show.

Because of this, the San Diego County Board of Education passed a resolution Sept. 10 recognizing September as Attendance Awareness Month. The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) has joined a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance while focusing on reducing chronic absenteeism in 2014-15.

“Here at the San Diego County Office of Education, we are committed to supporting school districts and community partners so students will be successful in school, and attendance is one of the most critical factors connected to student success,” said Don Buchheit, SDCOE’s interim assistant superintendent.

The problem of chronic absenteeism is larger than many people realize.

Nationwide an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent each year, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of the school year in excused and unexcused absences. That’s about 18 or 19 days in a typical year.

And it’s not just a problem for older students. One in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students is chronically absent each year. Those children are less likely to read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. Only about 17 percent of students who were chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade could read at grade level by the end of third grade, compared to 62 percent for those who attended regularly, according to preliminary statewide data.

A student who is chronically absent any year between eighth and 12th grade was 7.4 times more likely to drop out, one study shows.

During Attendance Awareness Month, school leaders, community advocates, parents and students will work together to build a habit and a culture of regular attendance, use data to monitor when chronic absence is a problem, and identify and solve barriers to getting children to school.

Although the problem affects everybody, some students are more likely of having attendance problems than others.

Children with certain risk factors—including poverty, homelessness and disabilities—are more likely to be chronic absent and often lack the resources to make up for the lost opportunities to learn in the classroom. Students from low-income families are four times more likely to be chronically absent.

“School attendance can be improved, and chronic absence significantly reduced, when schools, parents, and communities work together to monitor and promote good attendance and address hurdles that keep children from getting to school,” the board of education resolution approved Sept. 10 states.