A national report released by nonprofits Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign suggests that a child’s attendance in kindergarten has a strong influence on future educational success.
The report looked at absenteeism among students, finding that those 5-year-olds who were chronically absent in their first year continued to stay behind their peers in later grades, averaging 20 percentage points lower on reading tests and 25 points lower in math. These students were also twice as likely to be held back a grade.
“Poor attendance is among our first and best warning signs that a student has missed the on-ramp to school success and is headed off track for graduation,” the report says. “We must address attendance and its connection to public health early in a child’s life.”
According to the report, absenteeism rates among kindergartners were almost as high as the rate for high school freshmen. Findings estimate around 1 in 10 kindergartners to miss at least 18 days of school each year, equaling almost one month of class time.
The report suggests that absenteeism rates in kindergartners tend to go unnoticed, often being associated with mental or physical health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 14 million such absences are due to asthma. That number amounts to one-third of all missed school days.
“If you’re chronically absent in kindergarten or first grade because of an asthma issue, then by third grade you’re not reading at grade level and by sixth grade you don’t like school because it was never a positive experience,” said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works and author of the report. “Now maybe you’re truant and you’re skipping school. But you’re losing sight of the fact that we never created an equal opportunity for this child to be successful in school.”
Whatever the reason, missing school that often can have long-lasting consequences, as researchers found a link between poor attendance and lower National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores. That pattern was found throughout the United States, reports Sara Guaglione for iSchoolGuide.
Students who had missed at least 3 days of school each month were found to receive lower NAEP scores in reading and math than their peers who were not absent as much.
The report also claimed that that high rates of absenteeism in preschool and kindergarten has an influence over whether children end up being held back in the third grade. This is not the first time that this has been suggested; a number of other studies have found a link between chronic absenteeism, or missing at least 10% of the school year in early years of schooling, and a child’s ability to master reading by the end of the third grade.
According to researchers in Baltimore and Chicago, those effects begin in the preschool years.