Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) Introduce Legislation to Combat Chronic School Absenteeism

Apr 3, 2017 Issues: Education

Washington, DC – Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) today introduced the Chronic Absenteeism Reduction Act. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing ten percent or more of the school year and has been found to negatively impact school performance, high school graduation rates, and overall student success into adulthood. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and Data Collection found that over 6.8 million students were chronically absent during the 2013-2014 school year. This makes up 14 percent of the total student population and is especially concerning since students who are chronically absent are 68 percent less likely than other students to graduate high school.

There is no single cause of chronic absenteeism. The Chronic Absenteeism Reduction Act allows for schools to tailor solutions based on why individual or groups of students continue to be absent.

“Every child growing up in the United States deserves a quality education. It is our job as elected officials to give our kids the access and resources needed to receive the education they have been promised. Through education, our children have a shot at a better life for themselves and their families. But we must make sure local educators and policy makers are given the tools they need to track and confront the issue of chronic absenteeism so that they can maximize success for their students. This legislation is just the first-step, but it is critical to helping put an end to chronic absenteeism and allowing our students to reach their highest potential,” said Rep. Tim Ryan.

“Empowering students with quality education is so important to their success, and we should identify and eliminate obstacles to achieving that goal,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. “Unfortunately, Washington state has the most public school districts that face chronic absenteeism in the U.S. I’m pleased to help offer this solution that empowers educators at the local level with tools and support to address factors that are leading to kids in Southwest Washington missing school.”

“Chronic absenteeism is a critical predictor of negative future academic and social outcomes for students and an indicator of a need for increased support. When schools and communities take a coordinated and comprehensive approach to increasing student attendance by supporting young people through positive interventions including mentoring relationships, we see success. Mentoring is proven to help students form healthy relationships, improve self-confidence and drives improved school attendance. We thank Representatives Ryan and Herrera Beutler for elevating the value of creating school environments that systemically intervene to support young people who need it most and where those young people are bolstered with the relationships they need to thrive and strive,” said David Shapiro, CEO, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

“The National Network of State Teachers of the Year knows that chronic student absenteeism is a serious challenge in our nation’s schools -- disproportionately affecting students of color and diminishing prospects for success in later life. We salute Representatives Ryan and Herrera Beutler for the strategic approach to tackling this persistent problem, particularly the call for the development of mentoring programs. We know from experience that these programs work,” said Katherine Bassett, President and CEO, NNSTOY.

The Chronic Absenteeism Reduction Act extends the allowable use of funds of Title IV-A block grants to allow schools the flexibility to invest in getting students to engage in academic programs before having to invest in enriching those programs. Half of the students who are chronically absent are concentrated in four percent of the nation’s school districts. This bill allows schools to enact attendance programs that cater to their local needs by authorizing existing funds for schools to develop and implement effective strategies to combat chronic absence in schools by installing attendance data collection and analysis systems, partnering with local health, transportation and social service provider, and implementing school-based mentoring programs.

Real time data collection and analysis tools allow educators to track and identify attendance issues and monitor if progress is being made. Simple interventions such as alerting parents about their child’s missed assignments have been shown to increase attendance by 17 percent. The Chronic Absenteeism Reduction Act allows school districts to improve their attendance tracking systems. As a result, this data can be shared at the individual level with students, families, teachers, and principals to encourage immediate interventions, and at the aggregate level with district leadership, policymakers, community partners, and the general public to raise awareness and increase accountability.

By partnering with local health, transportation and social service providers, school officials will be better equipped to address unique causes of student absence. In New York, local task forces were able to create conditions that made targeted students 31 percent less likely to be chronically absent.

The Chronic Absenteeism Reduction Act provides states the ability to combat chronic absence in schools by training and implementing school-based mentoring programs. The presence of a consistent caring adult can be the key to instilling a regular attendance routine, and studies show that students who regularly meet with mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school. Schools will be able to utilize school personnel, partner with community organizations, or set up peer to peer mentoring models depending on what local school districts determine to be most impactful.

This legislation has been endorsed by: The Coalition for Juvenile Justice, AASA: School Superintendents Association, National Council for Behavioral Health, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Committee for Children, CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning, NNSTOY: National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Afterschool Alliance, ASCA: American School Counselor Association, Campaign for Youth Justice, Healthy Schools Campaign, Alliance for Excellent Education, NAESP: National Association of Elementary School Principals, Center for Supportive Schools, Communities in Schools and Spark.