Students who miss 10 percent of their school days—approximately 18 days a year—are at severe risk of dropping out or failing to graduate on time.
Chronic absenteeism in our schools goes largely unnoticed and unmeasured, but it’s estimated that roughly 7.5 million students miss a month of school each year. The problem affects students of all backgrounds, but for children in poverty, absentee rates are nearly 30 percent.
Policy makers continue to focus on reforming schools, but a 2011 study found that low-income students often have no routine and no preventative medical, dental, or optometric care, which results in more school absence due to illness.
Other reasons for missing school include family responsibilities and the need to work, as well as unsafe conditions both at home and at school. Other students simply stop seeing the value in getting an education and refuse to go.
These issues are most prevalent in lower-income communities, and they’re not just affecting high school students. Some urban schools have kindergarten absentee rates nearly as high as those in local high schools. The impact of missed days is dramatic—Get Schooled and Johns Hopkins University report that students who miss 10 percent of school days on average score in the 30th percentile on standardized reading and math tests. Those with zero absences, on the other hand, scored in the 50th percentile.
It’s widely believed that a student’s willingness to ask teachers for help is an indicator of success. A study published in the American Sociological Review found that socioeconomic backgrounds often affect a student’s ability to ask for assistance.
Middle-class kids are taught that asking for help is an acceptable way of completing projects, whereas lower-income students feel it’s a sign of weakness. Another study by Carnegie Mellon University found that many students will go to extreme lengths to avoid asking for help.
Besides showing up for school and asking for help, here are a few things students do to become better positioned for success in the classroom:
- Set goals and stick to them.
- Stay organized with a weekly planner or journal—this helps students stay on track with daily assignments and reports.
- Studying with friends can help with group projects or fleshing out ideas about a particular assignment or homework question.
- Review work for mistakes before turning in assignments, tests or reports.
Education is a shared responsibility between students, parents, teachers and our community. Everyone has a role to play, and students are no different. A student’s success in the classroom depends largely on attendance and preparedness.
To do well in school, students need to be there every day.