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 September is 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 Office of Education (SDCOE) has joined a nationwide effort to recognize Attendance Awareness Month in September and has pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance while focusing on reducing chronic absenteeism in 2014-15.

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 8th and 12th grade was seven 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.

Chronic absence can be reduced when schools, communities, and families work together to track the data, build a culture of attendance, and address barriers to good attendance.

Chronic absenteeism is a problem that affects everybody, not just the students involved.

Students who miss school frequently, even at an early age, are more likely to drop out of school. Having a high dropout rate creates obvious problems for students, but it also can have serious economic and social ramifications on the entire community.

In addition, most school districts get funding based on daily attendance, so local schools can lose millions of dollars each year because of chronic absenteeism.

This September, schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses, and other organizations around the nation are coming together to deliver the message that every school day counts. They are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, dig deeper into attendance data, and work with community partners to improve attendance starting as soon as children enter school.

Chronic absence can be reduced when schools, communities, and families work together to build a culture of attendance and address barriers to good attendance.