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New Mexico Educators Tackle Chronic Student Absenteeism

PHOTO: New Mexico 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: letsmove.gov
PHOTO: New Mexico 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: letsmove.gov
September 3, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - As part of Attendance Awareness Month in September, educators in New Mexico are tackling chronic absenteeism among school students, which research shows can have a serious impact on reading and other critical skills.

Veronica Garcia, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said missing a relatively small number of school days can have a big impact.

"There's some parents that don't recognize that missing a day here or there to babysit or to go shopping or to take a trip impacts their children's student achievement," she said.

Whether absences are excused, unexcused or for disciplinary reasons, Garcia said, they add up to academic trouble and reduce the likelihood that a student will graduate from high school. She said "chronic absenteeism" is defined as a student missing at least 10 percent of school days.

Garcia said causes of absenteeism range from poverty and transportation to poor health and child-care issues. Absenteeism can vary greatly from school to school, she said, so there may be multiple ways to address the problem.

"Poor attendance is often associated with other issues that are going on in the family," she said. "All combine to impact student learning."

Statistics show that as many as 7.5 million students in the United States are chronically absent each year, meaning they miss 10 percent of the school year, or nearly a month of school.

More information on Attendance Awareness Month is online at attendanceworks.org/attendancemonth.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM