Combating Truancy

Our society renews itself when children remain in school and graduate. Graduating from high school opens doors to college and to careers. 

Education can only fulfill its promise as the great equalizer—a force that can overcome differences in privilege and background—when we work to ensure that students are in school every day and receive the supports they need to learn and thrive.

At the same time, we know that many students experience tremendous adversity in their lives—including poverty, health challenges, community violence, and difficult family circumstances—that make it difficult for them to take advantage of the opportunity to learn at school.

Students who are chronically absent—meaning they miss at least 15 days of school in a year—are at serious risk of falling behind in school. In 2015-2016 OVER 6 MILLION students missed 15 or more days of school. That’s 14 percent of the student population—or about 1 in 7 students.

Chronic absenteeism occurs at every grade level but is more prevalent in some grades than others. Chronic absenteeism rates are highest in high school. Other research suggests that students in the early elementary grades also experience high rates of chronic absenteeism. Understanding when students are most at risk will help schools and advocates better target interventions to improve student outcomes.

Research suggests the reasons for chronic absenteeism are as varied as the challenges our students and families face—including poor health, limited transportation, and a lack of safety—which can be particularly acute in disadvantaged communities and areas of poverty. Whatever its causes, chronic absenteeism can be devastating:

Chronic absenteeism may prevent children from reaching early learning milestones.
Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade. Students who cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.

Irregular attendance can be a better predictor of whether students will drop out before graduation than test scores.
A study of public school students in Utah found that an incidence of chronic absenteeism in even a single year between 8th and 12th grade was associated with a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of dropping out.

Frequent absences from school can shape adulthood.
High school dropout, which chronically absent students are more likely to experience, has been linked to poor outcomes later in life, from poverty and diminished health to involvement in the criminal justice system.

The Fedcap Group, through ReServe is working to enhance the transformative power of education. We are clearing a pathway for at-risk students to attain a comprehensive education. Our approach to helping students succeed in school has several components and involves ReServists Success Mentors, professionals who dedicate their time and talent to make a difference. These Success Mentors support at-risk students in underperforming middle schools. They work closely with school administrators who have identified young people with disturbing patterns of absenteeism. Youth are referred to Success Mentors who meet with the young person on a weekly basis, reach out to family members and seek to address the underlying cause of absenteeism. The Success Mentors also serve as tutors and academic advocates as needed.

To enlist as a ReServist or to find out how to introduce ReServists into your school system, contact Dawn Mastoridis DMastoridis@reserveinc.org