More than six million children nationwide are chronically absent from school, and parents tend to underestimate the impact of those absences on their children's education, new research from the Ad Council finds.
A student who misses two days of school a month, or eighteen days in a school year, is considered to be chronically absent and, after just one year, can fall behind academically. Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are less likely to read at grade level by the third grade, and third-graders who do not read at grade level are four times more likely to drop out of high school — with long-term consequences for their financial, physical, and mental well-being. Yet, 49 percent of the more than one thousand parents surveyed believed their children could miss three or more days of school a month without falling behind academically. To address chronic absenteeism, the U.S. Department of Education, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation,, and the Ad Council have launched Absences Add Up, a public service campaign designed to better inform parents about the negative consequences of chronic absenteeism.
Absences Add Up is part of the Every Student, Every Day initiative, which was launched by the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative and is led by the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice. The campaign urges states and local communities to take immediate action to reduce chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent annually, beginning with the 2016-17 school year. To that end, the Absences Add Up website provides parents with information about the importance of school attendance; resources for children who are struggling in school, being bullied, trying to manage a chronic illness, or dealing with mental health challenges; and resources for parents designed to help them with caregiving, housing, and food challenges. It also offers information for teachers, community leaders, afterschool programs, and mentoring partners about how to encourage regular school attendance and address the factors leading to chronic absenteeism.
"Ensuring kids actually make it to school is a vital part of leveling the playing field," said Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. "Just missing a couple of days of school a month can mean the difference between dropping out and graduating on time....That's why eliminating chronic absenteeism is a critical part of our work at the federal, state, and local level to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed."