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January 21, 2016
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For Immediate Release
Contact:  Nancy Parello | nparello@acnj.org | (908) 399-6031

Newark students missing too much school
Call to action for school and community leaders

Nearly one-quarter of Newark’s youngest students are missing school at a rate that impedes their ability to succeed academically at a time that is crucial to their long-term school success, according to an Advocates for Children of New Jersey report released today.

The report, Showing Up Matters: Newark Chronic Absenteeism in the Early Years, found that roughly 4,300 or 24 percent of Newark students in grades kindergarten through 3rd grade were chronically absent during the 2013-14 school year, compared to a state rate of 9 percent. Based on a 180-day school year, any student who misses 18 days or more per year, both excused or unexcused, is considered chronically absent.

Chronic absenteeism was found to be widespread in 41 of the 60 traditional public and charter schools, with more than 20 percent of their K-3 students at each school missing 10 percent or more of the school year in 2013-14.
When young students miss too much school, they will likely struggle academically during that school year and in years to come, the report said. Children who were chronically absent in kindergarten had the lowest performance in reading and math in 5th grade, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and other difficulties in later school years, according to national research.

The report is based on an analysis of district and state data, as well as focus groups conducted with Newark parents, teachers and nurses and interviews with school administrators. It found that Newark’s poor school attendance has many causes, with key factors being transportation barriers, parents lacking a support network and chronic health issues, especially asthma.
“The good news is that student attendance can be improved,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “This report is a call to action for school and community leaders to come together and work with parents, teachers, healthcare providers and others to address the core causes of chronic absenteeism.”

“As Newark embarks on a new chapter in its education reforms, those efforts must focus on ensuring that all children attend school regularly,” Zalkind added.

While the strategies used to improve school attendance must be flexible and responsive to the unique needs of students and families in a particular community, winning strategies to reduce absenteeism share two common features:

  • Regular review of absentee data by school teams that can proactively respond to causes of absenteeism for groups of students and schoolwide, and
  • Engaging communities and parents to share information and build a support network that helps parents get their children to school regularly.
“This combination of using data proactively at the individual student and school-wide level and engaging parents are essential steps that must be taken to effectively combat absenteeism,” said Cynthia Rice, ACNJ’s senior policy analyst and co-author of report.

The report’s key recommendations include:
  • Build a culture of attendance through parent education, rewarding good attendance and connecting at-risk children with school staff who will intervene early when absenteeism first becomes a problem.
  • Create “attendance teams” at each school that would be charged with regularly collecting and reviewing data at the school level to identify and address systemic issues that may be contributing to the problem.
  • Review transportation options for Newark schools.
  • Improve before- and after-school care options, which is often a factor in a student’s school attendance.
  • Help parents strengthen their support network in their neighborhoods so they can help each other when health or family issues arise.
  • Create a comprehensive, citywide plan to address chronic asthma among children
“We know that the Newark community is committed to helping all children succeed in school,” Zalkind said. “School attendance is a critical issue that should be at the top of the list of priorities in 2016.”


Advocates for Children of New Jersey  (ACNJ) works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children. www.acnj.org

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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