An advocacy group says steps some public schools are taking to reduce chronic student absenteeism in New Jersey are making a difference.
Peter Chen with Advocates for Children of New Jersey says 9.7 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grade missed 18 or more days of school last year. That's down from 10.3 percent the year before.
"Even though the decline was only 0.6 percent, that's about 8,000 fewer students who are chronically absent, which is 8,000 fewer students who are more on track to graduate from high school."
Chen says there are several reasons why kids don’t get to school.
“One district might have a high amount of absenteeism among students who are in special education. Another district might have a high number of English-language learners who are chronically absent. A rural district that has an issue with transportation is going to be different than a suburban district where students are going on lots of family trips. And they’re going to need different strategies.”
Chen says having a clear action plan to target students for intervention can help reduce chronic absenteeism.
“Missing too much school means not just missing out on learning time but also missing out on some of the social and emotional development that school provides. So what we see is that students who are chronically absent in preschool and kindergarten are more likely to be absent later on in school. And students who are chronically absent in 8th and 9th grade are less likely to graduate from high school.”
Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle is sponsoring legislation that would require a public school to convene a coalition to address the problem if 10 percent or more of students continually miss school.
"By bringing together hopefully parents, teachers, and other community members the coalition would be able to regularly review and monitor chronic school absenteeism and develop a corrective action plan to improve attendance rates."
The Senate passed that measure in June and Huttle is hopeful the Assembly will act on it by the end of the year.