Positive early school experiences are key to keeping students motivated and on track for academic achievement. The major indicators for a student’s early grade success are regular attendance and on –grade reading levels. From kindergarten to third grade, children are learning to read. From fourth grade on, children are reading to learn. In every subject, children are expected to read content in order to progress.
What does this mean for 8 year-olds who struggle with reading? According to the 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Education, 80% of low-income children are reading below grade level by fourth grade. Children who do not reach reading proficiency by the end of third grade are four times less likely to finish high school on time. For struggling readers from low-income homes, they are six times less likely to graduate on time. Because reading is such a central predictor of school success or struggle, an early focus on literacy is paramount to closing this gap.
There is a well documented correlation between school attendance and student achievement, but the importance of early grade attendance cannot be overstated. Chronic absenteeism (defined as missing 10% of school or about 18 days) in kindergarten directly correlates with negative first grade results, including greater absenteeism, and lower reading and math achievement. Often by third grade, chronic absenteeism can result in being held back a grade. Furthermore, the cost of absenteeism to school districts is significant.
United Way manages the Every Student, Every Day program, which combats chronic absenteeism from multiple angles, using Bachelor and Master’s level interns, working on-site at the schools to monitor and support students in improving behavior or academic performance and helping close the achievement gap by increasing school attendance. We know that when students are not in school, they cannot learn. Did you know that for every day of school missed, it takes one and a half days of school to catch up? In partnership with San Diego Unified School District, and through monthly data tracking, we monitor student progress to ensure that students and families have what they need to attend school more regularly and build a foundation for long-term success.
Our investment in increasing school attendance will not only pay forward in increased reading proficiency and less high school drop outs, but it will also help bring these dollars back to our schools.