In Providence, 1 in 3 students is chronically absent, meaning they are absent at least 10% of the school year. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 18 days of school per year, or more. Absences usually occur at a rate of one or two days per month and can seem insignificant in the short term. However, numerous studies have shown that missing that many days of school, no matter what age, negatively affects a student’s success. Even as early as kindergarten, students who are chronically absent end the year with lower skills, which leads to worse performance as far as ninth grade and an increased risk of dropping out.
City Year Providence addresses chronic absenteeism through targeted interventions, providing special attentions to students who are often missing from class. Jacob LaBelle, a Team Leader serving on the National Grid Team at Gilbert Stuart Middle School, had such an experience with a student last year as a first year AmeriCorps member. He recounted mentoring a student who was regularly missing from school:
She was a student in my class who had 42 absences during the 2012-2013 school year and 17 during the 2013-2014 school year, all before the beginning of February. In January I started to eat lunch with her and slowly she began to trust me. We would meet almost every day and talk about her life. She would usually draw because she loved drawing, and we set goals about her coming to school more regularly. She told me that she stayed back twice in elementary school because of chronic absenteeism and truancy officers would come to her house. By the end of May when City Year left school, she had achieved perfect attendance for the months of April and May and had not been absent in March either (only having had one tardy that month).
Because Jacob provided extra attention to his student, she was able to set attendance goals and achieve them. Like City Year Providence, The Providence Children and Youth Cabinet focuses its work on chronic absenteeism. Founded in 2010, they provide a place for organizations and agencies working with children and youth come together to create a stronger network supporting the work. With so many community partners focusing on this important issue, City Year hopes to change the trajectory of students’ lives, keeping them on track and on time to graduate.
Help us fight chronic absence! Together we can reduce absences and thereby improve grade level reading and high school graduation rates.
Every day matters. First days. Last Days. Rainy Days.