New Research Shows Nearly Half of American Parents Underestimate the Harm of School Absences
Washington, D.C. — A student who misses just two days of school each month — 18 days total in the year — is considered to be chronically absent. However, many parents don’t realize that, even when excused or understandable, absences add up and can greatly impact a child’s education. In the United States, more than 6 million children are chronically absent from school each year.
New research released today by the Ad Council found that an overwhelming majority (86%) of parents understand their child’s school attendance plays a big role in helping them graduate from high school. However, nearly half (49%) of parents believe that it is okay for their children to miss three or more days of school per month – and that they won’t fall behind academically if they do. In reality, missing just two days of school per month makes children more likely to fall behind and less likely to graduate.
To combat chronic absenteeism, the U.S. Department of Education, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Ad Council have partnered to create a public service campaign, Absences Add Up. The campaign features a series of digital and out of home PSAs that drive parents to AbsencesAddUp.org. On the website, parents are empowered with information and resources to help ensure their children attend school each day.
“Ensuring kids actually make it to school is a vital part of leveling the playing field. Just missing a couple of days of school a month can mean the difference between dropping out and graduating on time. Absences add up. That’s why eliminating chronic absenteeism is a critical part of our work at the federal, state, and local level to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.
“A good education provides the best pathway to opportunity,” said Mott Foundation President Ridgway White. “But to succeed in school, students have to be in school. That’s why we’re pleased to support a campaign that will help families and communities keep kids in the classroom.”
Absences Add Up is part of the My Brother’s Keeper Every Student, Every Day initiative, a broad effort to combat chronic absenteeism led by the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice. The initiative calls on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10% each year, beginning with the current school year.
One third of parents surveyed in the new Ad Council survey say they could do more to ensure that their child attends school every day. There are many reasons why students miss school when there are resources available to help. Some are struggling in the classroom, while others may be having trouble with bullies or dealing with challenges at home.
“Many parents don’t realize that absences can add up quickly and make children more likely to fall behind quickly in the classroom,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “The Absences Add Up campaign gives parents the proper information they need to understand the true impact of school absences and the tools they need to set their children up for long-term success.”
Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. Students who cannot read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
The Absences Add Up campaign directs parents and community members to AbsencesAddUp.org, where they can find information about the importance of school attendance and resources to learn how to help children who are struggling in school, being bullied, managing chronic illness or dealing with mental health challenges. The site also provides parents with resources to assist with caregiving, housing and food challenges. For teachers, community leaders, after school programs, and mentoring partners, there is information about how to encourage school attendance and resources to help address issues like poor grades, bullying, and family challenges that cause children to miss school when they don’t have to.
The Ad Council survey was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs in June 2016. Ipsos surveyed more than 1,000 parents of children ages 6-13 to capture key attitudes regarding their children’s school attendance.