Student Health is Key to Reducing Chronic Absenteeism
Oregon has one of nation's worst school absenteeism rates, contributing to mediocre reading and math skills, study says
Related Issues: Graduation Rates, Dropout Rates

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I included some high-lights from an Oregonian story on the issue and created a chart comparing BHSD schools to national data.

Student Health is Key to Reducing Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic physical and mental health issues are a leading cause for missed school days which leads to lower academic achievement and higher dropout rates. The U.S. Department of Education has developed a nationwide initiative called “Every Student, Every Day” (www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/chronicabsenteeism/index.html) aimed at the 5 to 7.5 million students who are chronically absent each year. The initiative provides helpful tools for parents and professionals, and seeks to clarify the difference between truancy (being absent without a good reason) and chronic absenteeism related to health. For information on PACER’s resources for families of children and young adults with special health care needs, visit PACER at www.pacer.org/health/.

High Lights

Chronically absenteeism is under 90% of class days.

Last school year, nearly one in five Oregon students missed at least 10 percent of the school year, an investigation by The Oregonian shows. Those roughly 100,000 students were absent 3½ weeks of school or more – in most cases without raising alarms at their school.

No other state has been shown to have a chronic absenteeism rate as bad as Oregon’s.

Students are deemed chronically absent if they miss at least 10 percent of school days. Last school year, 24 percent of Oregon high school students missed that much – and so did 20 percent of eighth-graders and 18 percent of first-graders.

Frequent absenteeism has devastating consequences. One Oregon study found that students who miss 10 percent of kindergarten lag, on average, almost a year behind in reading by third grade and are unlikely to ever catch up. Studies from multiple states show that chronically absent high school students are unlikely to graduate.

Oregonian 1155 schools:

Among the findings:

» Chronic absenteeism affects schools in every Oregon community but is worst in rural Oregon. In Lincoln and Grant counties, chronic absenteeism averages 29 percent. It’s at least 20 percent in every school.

» Statewide, attendance hits a high point in fourth grade and declines steadily every grade after that, culminating in 29 percent of high school seniors missing a tenth of the year.

» Half of Oregon students attend school as regularly as experts recommend, coming to class more than 95 percent of the time. One-third land in a caution zone, missing 5 percent to 9 percent of school days but stopping short of chronic absenteeism.

» Low-income students are almost 50 percent more likely to be chronically absent than other Oregon students. At some schools, nearly half the low-income students miss that often, including at La Pine High (48 percent), Summit High in Bend (47 percent), Talmadge Middle School in Independence and Taft Junior/Senior High in Lincoln City (both 45 percent).

» Chronic absenteeism is a significant problem in nearly every school serving eighth-graders, including K-8 schools such as Portland’s Vernon School (where 31 percent of eighth-graders were chronically absent), big middle schools such as South Meadow Middle School in Hillsboro (25 percent) and small schools such as Banks Junior High (24 percent).

» Certain students miss mind-boggling amounts of school. At Thurston High in Springfield, 50 students each missed more than 10 weeks of school last year, records show. At Llewellyn Elementary in Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood, nine first- and second-graders missed at least five weeks of school apiece.

BHSD Chronic Absenteeism


% 90%+



79% *
73% *
75% *

79% *
79% *
74% *


87% *
77% *
81% *


76% *
76% *
75% *




Source: Analysis by Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian using 2012-13 data from the Oregon Department of Education, average Oregon school by grade
* BHSD Report Cards

Oregon has one of nation's worst school absenteeism rates, contributing to mediocre reading and math skills, study says

A new study of school attendance in all 50 states confirms that Oregon has one of the nation's worst chronic absenteeism problems -- and that is contributing to the state's mediocre levels of reading and math achievement .

The "Absences Add Up" study, to be released Tuesday, found that students who miss about a month of school per year are dramatically worse at both reading and math than students who attend regularly -- in every state, grade level, subject and demographic group studied.

States with highest, lowest absentee rates
Combined percentage of 4th- and 8th-graders who reported missing three or more days of school in a month.

1. Montana
2. New Mexico
3. Oklahoma
4. Oregon (tie)


1. Texas
2. Illinois (tie)
5. Georgia


Source: Attendance Works analysis of 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress results

In Oregon, students who reported they missed that many school days were a full year behind in both subjects in fourth grade and eighth grade, according to the study, done by the national pro-attendance nonprofit Attendance Works .

The study examined performance on the only reading and math tests given to a representative sample of students in every state . Students who take that test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, are asked how many days of school they missed during the month leading up to the test.

Oregon's rate of chronic absenteeism ties for fourth-worst in the nation, with about 24 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders reporting they missed three days of school per month, a rate that translates to them missing about 15 percent of the school year, the study found.

Nationally, about 20 percent of students reported missing that much school, with states including California, Texas and Georgia showing rates as low as 16 percent.

Oregon's excessive absentee rate hurts the achievement of all students who miss a lot of school, even those from middle-class families, the study said. But it is most harmful to low-income students, who are far more prone to miss too much school and whose achievement suffers a bit more when they do.

Therefore, it said, Oregon's huge absenteeism problem contributes strongly to inequitable school outcomes for minority and low-income students – an "achievement gap" that Oregon policymakers have vowed to try to narrow .

Many of the states with the best rates, including Texas, California and Illinois, fund their schools not based on how many students are enrolled each day, as Oregon does, but on how many students actually show up.

"That creates an incentive for making sure students are there," said Attendance Works director Hedy Chang. Schools that serve a concentration of low-income students have to work harder to keep attendance rates high, so those states also make sure to give schools extra funding for every low-income student, she noted.

The study found that Oregon's rate of chronic absenteeism trailed only those of Montana, New Mexico and Oklahoma, all states with significant Native American populations.

Native American students have the poorest attendance rates of any racial group, including in Oregon, where a tribal-funded study found that one of every three children who are members of Oregon's seven federally recognized tribes are chronically absent from school , meaning they miss 10 percent of the school year or more.

A five-part series by The Oregonian this year identified Oregon as having a chronic absenteeism epidemic that touches schools in every community. The series highlighted causes and potential solutions to Oregon's stark patterns of school absenteeism.

The Oregonian's analysis of 480,000 Oregon students' attendance records used the most common definition of chronic absenteeism: missing at least 10 percent of the school year, as judged by records covering the first eight months of the school year.

The Absences Add Up study used a slightly different, and somewhat less accurate, definition, because it was the best available, said author Alan Ginsberg, retired director of policy planning for the U.S. Department of Education. It looked at a student's report of how many days he or she missed during the month leading up to the test, which is typically given in February.

A student who consistently misses three days a month would miss about 15 percent of the school year, Ginsberg noted. But some students can miss three days in a single month but miss almost no days the rest of the year and be academically unscathed, he said.

The Oregonian's series showed that many schools fail to track attendance and alert parents before the problem becomes severe. It also showed that Oregon's history of men being able to make a good living without getting a solid education by harvesting timber, fishing or working in mills makes it hard, especially in some communities, to get families on board with sending children and teens to school every day.

The series, "Empty Desks," also showed six sure steps that successful Oregon schools are taking to boost attendance – and, by extension, boost children's odds of learning to read well, do math and get a high school diploma.

With a new school year opening Tuesday in most Oregon schools, some Oregonians question whether schools are doing a good enough job, particularly given the state's official goal of getting all students to graduate from high school and 80 percent of them to earn a higher education credential , whether certification in a trade or a four-year college degree.

The Absences Add Up study says there is an "indisputable truth" about raising U.S. student achievement: "Students must attend school regularly to benefit from what is taught there."

The study backs up that claim by citing reams of research, including:

Absenteeism in kindergarten can affect whether a child develops the grit and perseverance needed to succeed in school. A recent study by Michael Gottfried of the University of California at Santa Barbara shows chronic absenteeism hurts both the academic performance and social-emotional skills needed to persist in learning.

Missing many days in preschool and kindergarten can influence whether a child will learn to read at grade level by third grade. Several studies show that missing 10 percent of the school year in the early grades harms a child's likelihood of mastering reading by the end of third grade.

Absenteeism reduces not only a student's odds of graduating high school but also of completing college. A new analysis of Rhode Island data found that only 11 percent of the chronically absent students who graduated from high school made it to a second year of college, compared with 51 percent of students with better high school attendance.

Source: www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/09/oregon_has_one_of_nations_wors.html

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