Skipping even a few days of school can affect grades dramatically

Published: Monday, Sept. 10 2012 11:02 a.m. MDT

Kids across the nation are often unaware that skipping even a few days of school can affect grades dramatically.

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It seems obvious that students can't benefit from school unless they show up there. Nonetheless, kids across the nation are often unaware that skipping even a few days of school can affect grades dramatically and even decrease their odds of graduating, according to Get Schooled's new report on school truancy.

The report, drawn from interviews with more than 500 school-skipping teens in 25 cities, reveals that more than 80 percent of students who skip school once a week believe it is unlikely they will fall behind in class. Get Schooled said an attitude adjustment is order.

"Our national leaders have set ambitious goals for our students. But we will not meet those goals unless students attend school regularly,” said Marie Groark, executive director of Get Schooled. “We are hearing from young people — no matter their community or background — that they have high aspirations, but too often they are not aware the path for success starts with consistent attendance.”

The Atlantic dug into the report and found some surprises about who is skipping school:

Over half the respondents were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 16 percent were black and 2 percent were Asian. Two-thirds described their household's income to be average or above average. Students said they would be more likely to attend school regularly if coursework lined up better with their career interests, which suggests that secondary schools should do better at providing vocational training, The Atlantic said.

In Los Angeles, a hard-nosed approach to ticketing truants was tempered recently, after city and school officials realized the policy was increasing absenteeism instead of curbing it.

"Under the previous rules, city and school police issued tickets with fines of up to $250 to students who were out on the streets during school hours — including students who were on their way to school. Community activists complained that during the hour or so immediately after school started, police would wait along the most popular routes to campus and write tickets to students who were running late. Some students, if they knew they would be tardy, stayed home rather than face the possibility of a ticket," according to the Los Angeles Times.

For some school-skippers, the problem starts in elementary school. Every year, one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students misses a month of school with excused and unexcused absences, according to the national initiative Attendance Works, which said parents can combat absenteeism by getting their non-sick children to school on time every day.

Establishing good routines for going to bed early and waking up on time helps, as does talking to children about why going to school every day is critical. Attendance Works also suggests that families create backup plans for getting children to school if something comes up, and that parents reach out for help during tough times such as unstable housing, job loss and health problems. Other parents, school staff, after-school programs or community agencies can help, or provide connections to other resources.

Facts from Get Schooled's Skipping to Nowhere report:

— 7 million kids miss a month or more of school each year — that's more than the number of students in the state of California

— Kids who miss more than 10 days of school in one academic year are less likely to graduate from high school

— Those same kids have 25 percent lower likelihood of ever enrolling in college

— Seventy-five percent of chronic truants start skipping school in middle school or early high school

— Forty-two percent of chronic truants said their parents rarely know

— Chronic truants say they want school to connect better with their lives, and they want to better understand how school attendance affects future success

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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