Kinnelon Public Schools

Chronic Absenteeism - #SchoolEveryDay

Kinnelon Public Schools is facing a chronic absenteeism problem in grades kindergarten through grade 5. Kiel Elementary School’s average chronic absenteeism over a five-year period (2012-2017) is 31.32%. In 2016-17 alone, 28.4% of students were chronically absent at Kiel. In that same year, Stonybrook Elementary showed a quarter of the students chronically absent. It is important to note that these statistics do not include students who are tardy for a portion of the day, or those who leave school early. These factors create a substantial disruption to student learning.

Why is this important?

When students are young, too many absences can reduce their chances of reading proficiently by third grade, a key indicator of long-term academic success. Chronic absence, missing excessive amounts of school for any reason, can cause students to fall behind academically. 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.

At the core of school improvement and education reform is an assumption so widely understood that it is rarely invoked: students have to be present and engaged in order to learn. Schools and communities have a choice: we can work together early on to ensure families get their children to class consistently or we can pay later for failing to intervene before problems are more difficult and costly to ameliorate.

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What can parents do?

It is imperative that our students arrive to school on time each and every day. We do however understand that illnesses occur. If a student has a fever, vomiting and /or gastrointestinal symptoms, they should be home from school; the student must be free of symptoms for 24 hours (without the use of medication) before returning to school. A student must be on antibiotics for 24 hours prior to returning to school to prevent the spread of communicable disease. The State of NJ recognizes the following as a legitimate absence:

  • Religious observance (N.J.A.C. 6A:32-8.3(h));

  • A college visit (up to 3 days per school year, only for students in grades 11 and 12);

  • Take Our Children to Work Day;

  • School suspension;

  • A child is required to be in court

It is vital that other than the reasons listed above, children come to school on time each and every day.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chronic Absenteeism

Q: What is “chronic absenteeism”?

A: Chronic absenteeism refers to the number of students who miss 10 percent or more of enrolled school days. Students who miss just two days per month – 18 days over the course of the 180-day school year – would be considered “chronically absent.” A district’s “chronic absence” rate is the percentage of students who are chronically absent in a set time period.

Q: How is chronic absenteeism different from “truancy” or “average daily attendance”?

A: “Truant” students are students with more than 10 absences that are “unexcused,” while chronic absenteeism looks simply at absences, regardless of reason. “Average daily attendance” refers to the average number of students who show up to school on any given day.

Q: Why should schools look at chronic absenteeism data?

A: Students cannot learn if they are not in school, and when students miss more than 10 percent of days, their academic success is at risk. Each absence puts a child further behind, impacting everything from test scores to reading proficiency to graduation rate.

Q: How can chronic absenteeism be reduced?

A: Absenteeism requires a community solution beyond the school walls. Different strategies are needed depending on the causes of student absences. However, the general action steps for schools and communities include: 1) regular review of attendance data at the school, classroom, and student level; 2) intervention strategies to notify and support families and students with underlying issues when absences begin; and 3) school climate and culture that encourage attendance.

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