The Maryland State Department of Education has teamed up with a national nonprofit to address chronic absenteeism in the state’s public schools.
State officials said Maryland is partnering with Attendance Works to lower the number of days students miss school during the school year. This week, they launched a campaign in which the state will work with local school systems to provide them with tools and strategies to get students to come to school and then keep them there.
“Students can’t succeed if they aren’t in class,” State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery said in a statement.
MSDE has declared September “Attendance Awareness Month.”
According to a recent study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, attendance habits that are established in September are generally maintained throughout the school year. The authors suggest that schools address absenteeism in the first full month of school before the issue becomes a problem.
The study looked the absentee rates of students in Baltimore during the month of September and compared it with the rest of the year.
The majority of students, or 77 percent, missed less than two days in September.
Those students continued to average less than two days absent each month, and over the year were absent an average of 10 days, according to the study.
Meanwhile, students who missed between two and four days missed between two to three days each month, which is about 25 days for the year.
In Maryland, chronic absenteeism is missing more than 20 days of school, regardless of whether the absences are excused or unexcused.
Last year, more than 80,000 students had more than 20 absences. In 2013, 18.2 percent of students in the ninth to 12 grades in Maryland had more than 20 absences. The number was higher in Prince George’s, where 23 percent of the students were chronically absent. Montgomery County was just below the statewide percentage at 16.2.
Lowery said the state and its partner will provide resources and support to schools and communities. Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for MSDE, said the tools are Web-based materials provided by Attendance Works.
In one toolkit, Attendance Works offers suggestions about engaging parents, addressing the barriers that lead to absences and videos to share with parents.
“We know that when students are in school and engaged in the learning process, they are much more likely to graduate college and career-ready,” she said. “To reach that goal, we need the commitment of the entire community.”