Occasional ‘sick’ days have negative side effects on your child’s education

March 28, 2013 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

If you think it’s OK for your child to occasionally miss school “just because,” you might want to consider the following statistics:

    • Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and 1st grade are less likely to read proficiently in 3rd grade
    • As early as 6th grade, missing 18 or more days of school in a year – or roughly 2 days per month – puts a child’s high school graduation at risk.
    • An estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students miss 18 or more days of school each year. That’s about 10 to 15 percent of U.S. students.
    • 7,000 kids in this country drop out every school day – or one every 26 minutes

Granted, “occasionally” doesn’t immediately translate to “chronically absent,” but it does make you consider the impact unnecessary absences can have on your child’s long-term school success.

School attendance – and the importance of parent involvement to ensure it – is the focus of a campaign by the Ad Council – the folks behind phrases such as “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk,” “Take a Bite Out of Crime” and “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” They’ve developed slogans for the Peace Corps (“The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love”) and in support of the United Negro College Fund (“A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste”).

Now, they’ve partnered with the U.S. Army to take on chronic absenteeism and its role in dropout rates. Chronic absenteeism is missing 10 percent of days in a school year for any reason. Nationally, 1 out of 10 students (7.5 million students) is chronically absent – an indication the student is academically at risk due to missing too much school.

The Ad Council conducted research aimed at low-income and minority families with children in grades 4 to 9 who had missed at least 10 days of school in a year.

In their research, the Ad Council found that subject families viewed education as key to a better life, but generally didn’t perceive a link between their child missing school and academic success. Parents believed an absence was OK if a parent said it was OK, and they offered varied reasons for acceptable absences: bullying, sickness, vacation, mental health or rest day, reward for good grades, to help around the house, appointments (including translating for parents at the doctor’s office), and family time.

Other perceptions the research revealed include:

      • Absences here or there are alright; consecutive absences are a problem.
      • Parents of high school students don’t feel they have control over their children’s schedule.
      • Parents of younger students believe that time is on their side to correct the problem of absenteeism.
      • Elementary and middle school are for socializing and playing
      • Kindergarten is not important

The goal of the Ad Council campaign is to emphasize that every absence – excused or not – can impact a child’s academic achievement. Students need to attend school daily to succeed – a message that is particularly timely in New York, where increasingly rigorous Common Core State Standards make attendance all the more important.

They’ve created BoostUp, a high school dropout prevention campaign designed to support potential graduates at-risk of dropping out. The campaign is aimed at adults who can influence a teen’s decision to stay in school. The website – BoostUp.org – is packed with resources and ideas to help address absenteeism issues.


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