‘Every Student, Every Day’ Puts Focus on Chronic Absenteeism
In 2001 the Federal Government announced the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. In 2009, it was the “Race to the Top.”
Well, with much less fanfare a new federal education program was unveiled earlier this month to address the insidious problem of chronic absenteeism.
This one is called “Every Student, Every Day” and is aimed at the huge numbers of students -- as many as 7.5 million nationally -- who are chronically absent each year. By missing at least 10 percent (approximately 18 days) of school days in a school year, these students are at heightened risk of falling behind and dropping out of school.
The federal government is promising support that includes making resources and strategies available to raise awareness among families about the importance of regular school attendance.
Here in Manchester, the school district this year appointed an attendance director to bring increased focus to this area. Jim Farrell had previously been an assistant principal at MHS, where he was instrumental in installing the Swipe automated attendance system there.
He is focused mostly now on students in earlier grades.
“Statistics tell us that students who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are far less likely to be reading on grade level by the time they get to third grade,” Farrell said, adding that students who can't read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
“That’s why helping students establish good attendance patterns when they are young is so important,” he said.
As a first step, all the elementary schools in town are now using the same letters that are sent home to the parents and guardians of students who meet certain absenteeism thresholds. Also, there is a pilot program under way at Bowers designed to improve the effectiveness of their school attendance team.
“We know that this is going to take time and be challenging,” Farrell said. “But I’m confident we will reduce the number of students who are chronically absent in Manchester and those students will benefit in many ways -- certainly including academically.”