Thea Digiammerino

New Haven Schools Ending Year with Efforts to Lower Chronic Absenteeism

Nearly 4,000 students were considered chronically absent in the 2017-18 academic year.

The school year may be winding down, but New Haven Public Schools are still focused on their "Attendance Matters" campaign.

Nearly 4,000 students were considered chronically absent in the 2017-18 academic year. That means they missed 10 percent of the school year, or about two days per month.

“The mission is to try to finish the year out strong,” NHPS dropout prevention officer Michael Fox said. “We try to target the kids that’s been missing in the last few days of school or has been out a period of time.”

An assistant football coach at Hillhouse High School, Fox tackled the issue of chronic absenteeism on Tuesday by going door-to-door with other staff members to speak with families.

“This is the time of year where we see attendance reducing and students not coming to school as we have beautiful days like today and we just want to encourage families to make sure that their children are in school every day,” said Gemma Joseph Lumpkin, chief of Youth, Family and Community Engagement, on one of the stops during a neighborhood canvas.

The school district assigns success mentors to high risk students and sends texts and emails to parents throughout the year.

“The early grades are significant super important years for our children,” Lumpkin said. “Going face to face and talking to families one on one really gives us that sense of relationship building.”

Superintendent Dr. Carol Birks said there are short-term and long-term consequences for young students missing too many school days.

"Research shows that missing as little as 2 to 3 days per month can translate into third graders unable to master reading, sixth graders failing courses and ultimately teens dropping out of high school,” she said.

Birks explained that excused absences are also counted when determining whether a student has been chronically absent.

“Even parent excused absences can add up and contribute to academic trouble, chronic absenteeism is not just students who are skipping school but students who miss school often for various reasons such as vacations and doctor appointments,” she said.

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