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Absenteeism plagues schools nationwide

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While kindergarten has the highest habitual truancy rate at the elementary level, overall, high school students are still by far the worst offenders.

Habitual truancy, a measure that looks only at unexcused absences, gradually declines through fifth grade across APS, then begins to climb, hitting 25 to 26 percent in the high school years.

Many districts, including APS, are beginning to focus more on chronic absenteeism, which considers both excused and unexcused absences.

A new Attendance Works report – “Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence” – notes that high chronic absenteeism disproportionately impacts certain neighborhoods.

Nationwide, almost 10,000 public schools, about 11 percent of the total, have chronic absence rates of 30 percent or higher.

Attendance issues harm all students at these schools, not just those who are gone, because the churn is distracting, the Attendance Works report states. When students return to class after an absence, teachers must take the time to get them caught up, shortchanging the other kids.

And absenteeism is highly correlated to dropping out of school altogether. Students who also struggle with poor grades and discipline problems are the least likely to graduate.

“First and foremost, you have to show up to learn,” said Angelo Gonzales, Mission: Graduate executive director. “It is also about engagement. We want kids to be present and deeply engaged in their learning.”

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