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Chronic Absenteeism and its Impact on our Children

How important is it for a child to be in school every day? Simply put, their future depends on it.

Children who are not in the classroom can’t learn. In fact, studies have shown that missing school can mean lower standardized tests scores, can hinder a child from reading on grade level by third grade, and can cause the child to fall behind academically. And, unfortunately, these often lead the child to give up on his or her dream of graduating, and they drop out of school.

There are so many reasons for chronic absenteeism.  And it’s important that we to look beyond the attendance rate of a school, district or even the state. We need to identify the children who are missing a large number of days each year, and try to uncover the reason behind the absences.

We aren’t just talking about playing “hooky” from school. The reasons for missing school are as different as the children themselves. Some are forced to stay home to take care of a sick parent or other family member. Others miss the bus, and have no way to school. Some have no one in the house to wake them up and help get them ready for school, while others have to work to support the family and help pay the bills. Some fall behind in their academics and are embarrassed to go to school. And unfortunately, chronic absenteeism can be the result of homelessness.

Studies have shown that being chronically late or absent from school is the No. 1 hidden sign of a homeless student.

According to U.S. Department of Education, there were more than 1.3 million homeless students enrolled in public schools in the 2013-2014 academic year, the latest year for which such data were available. That was 8% more than in the previous school year, and an 100% increase since 2006-2007. In Georgia, the State Department of Education reports there are 39,695 homeless students enrolled in our public K-12 schools.

Too many times, these children are afraid or embarrassed to discuss their situation with their teachers. At CIS, we look for the signs of homelessness, and work to build trusting relationships with these children.  We understand that one caring adult can make the difference in a child’s life.

Every missed day of school is a missed opportunity for learning. It’s time we look beyond the number of students who attend school every day. We need to dig deeper, find the reasons why the children who aren’t in class are missing school, and help guide them on the path of achievement.