Skipping class only two days a month adds up to nearly five weeks of missed school a year. This is the reality for a growing number of students who are labelled with ‘chronic absenteeism’.
School is the place where you learn crucial knowledge about the world, develop social skills with your peers and learn the importance of discipline.
However, with 15.6 percent of students in Michigan alone being chronically absent in the 2016/17 academic year, many students are missing out on core development milestones that school provides.
Education experts say chronic absenteeism, which starts as early as kindergarten, increases the likelihood that children are unable to read well by third grade, fail classes in middle school and drop out of high school, reports The Detroit News.
“The reality is they are missing school, no matter what the reason is. The data is clear on the negative outcomes. If you aren’t there, you aren’t being successful,” said Kyle Guerrant, deputy superintendent of finance and operations with the Michigan Department of Education.
Last school year, kindergartners had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism among all grades, with seniors being close behind, according to The Detroit News. About 20.4 percent of kindergartners were chronically absent while 20.2 percent of seniors were.
The statistics also reveal a worrying social trend, with African-American students having the highest rates of chronic absenteeism at 31.9 percent. Students with disabilities, considered economically disadvantaged and those who were identified as homeless, were also more likely to be chronically absent.
If chronic absenteeism is prevalent among certain disadvantaged minorities, it is unlikely these students will ever gain the same level of education as their peers. Education is one of society’s greatest tools in promoting social mobility, but if certain groups are not attending school, it is unlikely this will ever come to fruition.
“If our kids aren’t in school, it’s pretty tough for them to succeed and thrive. Kids who are successful in school are more likely to be contributing citizens. Attendance is our earliest warning sign that kids are off track,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of the nonprofit Attendance Works.