Not long ago, I was talking about early learning with a cousin who teaches Pre-K here in Oklahoma. Our state’s publically funded Pre-K program, although universally available to children, is not mandatory. However, my cousin Jane said we still need to stress to parents that regular attendance for enrolled students is important, even if the program itself is voluntary. This is a familiar theme in my world; because attendance is something we are mindful of here at CAP Tulsa as well.
And we’re not alone in our concern, either. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that preschool students do, in fact, miss a lot of school. Their recent report, Preschool Attendance in Chicago Public Schools, states almost half of three-year-olds and more than one-third of four-year-olds are chronically absent from school. To put Chicago’s rate of preschool absenteeism into perspective, only 11% of kindergartners across the country are chronically absent.
But what does chronically absent mean? And why is regular attendance important at such an early age?
“Chronic absenteeism,” for the purposes of the Chicago report, was defined as having an absence rate of 10% or higher. The “absence rate” is determined by taking the number of days a student missed school and dividing it by the total number of days he or she was enrolled. As they put it – if a typical student was enrolled for 150 days, he or she would be chronically absent if 15 or more days were missed over the course of the school year.
Researchers determined, among other things, that chronic absenteeism is higher among students who live in high-poverty areas. This is troubling because (more…)