Absenteeism in Pre-K and Kindergarten: Long Term Effects?

blog-header-10-16Photo courtesy of Nancy Alexander, LA.

Chronic absenteeism has been seen as something that primarily affects schools.  During the last couple of years, however, researchers have begun looking at the effects that a history of chronic absenteeism beginning in pre-K may have on the future academic success of a young child, particularly in regard to reading proficiency. 

Two reports, Absenteeism in DC Public Schools Early Childhood Program:  An Update for School Year 2013-2014 by Lisa Dubay and Nikhil Holla and  Insights into Absenteeism in DCPS Early  Childhood Program:  Contributing Factors and Promising Strategies by Michael Katz, Gina Adams and Martha Johnson, highlighted the importance of combating chronic absenteeism in the early years and the complex nature of the challenges in addressing the underlying causes.

The reports provided these key findings:

  • About 20% of Head Start students in the DC school programs were chronically absent, with another 7 % severely chronically absent, meaning they missed 20% or more of school days.
  • Children who came from families with significant needs were the most chronically absent.  The report found that 46% of children from homeless families, 36% of children from families participating in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and 34% of children with developmental delays missed 10% or more of the school days.
  • A variety of factors contributed to this chronic absenteeism, including things such as lack of transportation, a school culture that was not welcoming or accepting, neighborhood safety, health status or parental attitudes toward school.

A report just released by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading found that more than 12 percent of Arkansas students in kindergarten through third grade missed 18 or more days of school.  The report, Make Every Day Count:  Reducing Chronic Absence in Arkansas Schools, found that children in kindergarten were more likely to be chronically absent than third graders and that third graders who are economically disadvantaged or have special needs were more likely to be chronically absent.

As early childhood educators, we’ve dedicated our lives to supporting and assisting these children who face challenges, either through family circumstances or developmental problems.  Obviously, if a child is absent, the effect of our efforts will be diminished considerably.  It’s very clear that this is a problem that can develop before a child enters a public or private school…Pre-K programs are not immune.   Children miss those critical days when the building blocks for future learning are being put in place.

Let Us Hear From You

  • Have you experienced a problem with chronic absenteeism within your program or with specific children with whom you work?
  • If absenteeism is a problem, have there been adverse effects on your program or staff? How are  the day to day operations of your class or program affected?
  • Are there strategies that you have employed to educate and empower parents to ensure they are knowledgeable of the benefits of ensuring good attendance?
  • Have you founds ways to connect families in need with services and supports that may help to reduce the potential for chronic absenteeism?

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