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Educators In Utah Tackling Chronic Student Absenteeism

PHOTO: Utah educators are using Attendance Awareness Month in September to draw attention to educational challenges linked to students who are chronically absent from school. Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency.
PHOTO: Utah educators are using Attendance Awareness Month in September to draw attention to educational challenges linked to students who are chronically absent from school. Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency.
September 2, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah educators are tackling chronic absenteeism among school students, which research shows can have a serious impact on reading and other critical skills.

Voices for Utah Children is one of several organizations promoting Attendance Awareness Month in September, and CEO Karen Crompton says missing a relatively small number of school days can still have a big impact.

"Students who miss as little as 10 percent of the school days every year are at risk of not reading on grade level by third grade," she says. "In eighth grade it becomes a predictor of who may be likely to drop out of school."

Crompton says whether absences are excused, unexcused, or the result of disciplinary measures, they add up to academic trouble and reduce the likelihood a student will graduate from high school. She says 'chronic absenteeism' is defined as a student missing at least 10 percent of the class days in one school year, or nearly one month of school.

According to Crompton, causes of absenteeism range from poverty and transportation to poor health and child-care issues. She says absenteeism can vary greatly from school to school, so there may be multiple ways to address the problem.

"It really has to be a determination school by school if we're going to move the needle on that," says Crompton. "But it is one of the easiest, low-cost ways to address the achievement gap."

The Utah State Office of Education reports as many as 7.5 million students in the U.S. are chronically absent each year.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT