Children's Institute Combats Chronic Absence

 Adult and child high-fiving in a school hallway.

Chronic absence is a huge problem in Oregon. Last year, one out of every six students was chronically absent. That means almost 94,000 students missed at least one out of every ten school days. Data shows, these kids are more likely to perform poorly academically, as well as drop out before high school graduation.

This isn't okay, and the Children's Institute is determined that Oregon do better for its children. First step, spread awareness of the issue.

Because many schools don't even track chronic absence among their students, educators and families often don't realize how big an issue it is. That's why the Children's Institute worked with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to collect and release data about chronic absence in Oregon during the 2014-15 school year. As hoped, ODE's data has put the problem of chronic absence on the radar for school districts and communities across the state.

One of the key findings of their research was this: attendance habits in kindergarten can predict attendance habits and academic performance in high school. That brings us to step two of the Children's Institute's plan to combat chronic absence.

 Young child with both hands raised.

The Children's Institute has partnered with two schools (Early Boyles Elementary and Yoncalla Elementary) to establish and run two Early Works preschool programs. By making attendance a priority early on, Early Works helps families and students establish good habits that will carry through kindergarten and beyond. As an example of the impact they're making, in 2014-15, students in the Earl Boyles preschool program averaged a 94 percent attendance rate.

Thanks to ODE, the Children's Institute and the Oregon schools that have already experimented with intervention programs, we have plenty of data and good examples to learn from. We know which groups of students have the highest rates of chronic absence (Native Americans, special education students, low-income students and Pacific Islanders), so we can focus our efforts accordingly. And we know that the best way to combat chronic absence is with early family engagement in preschool and kindergarten.

Learn more in the Children's Institute's Showing Up, Staying In report.

The Children's Institute is a Kaiser Permanente Community Fund partner. They have also received funding through Northwest Health Foundation Sponsorships and the President's Opportunity Fund.