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Chronic Absenteeism among Oregon Schools


     Comedian Woody Allen is often quoted as saying that 80% of success is showing up. When it comes to school attendance, he has a valid point. Attendance is one of the most reliable indicators of students’ academic performance through school. Knowing this, Oregon’s epidemic of chronic absenteeism among k-12 students is disturbing. Several recent studies have found that 18 to 25 percent of Oregon students are chronically absent. This means they miss ten percent or more of school days. More than one third of students are at risk for chronic absenteeism, hovering near the ten percent mark.       This places Oregon among lowest performing states in the country for attendance, tying for the fourth worst.
     Students must be in the classroom to learn. So, it comes as no surprise that sixth graders who reported missing more than three days of school in a month scored lower on standardized testing. On average, these students tracked a year behind in reading and math. Kindergartners who missed more than twenty percent of school days were in the bottom quartile of academic performance in the tenth grade.
School administrators and educators have taken notice of the issue in Oregon. To remedy this, several schools and districts are taking steps to reduce absenteeism among their students. David Douglas school district has hired two full-time staff positions devoted to maintaining attendance.
     One of the staff persons combating chronic absenteeism is social worker Kenan Ginsberg. Ginsberg works with families to remedy the source of the students’ missed school days. Ginsberg has made schedules for students to follow to ensure they get to school on time, driven students to school himself, and arranged for students to receive health care. Further, he installed a washer and dryer to aid homeless students. Other interventions on the part of David Douglas and other schools include teachers calls and letters home to parents of absent students, rewards for students with good attendance, and meticulous tracking of student’s attendance. Tracking student attendance helps to keep tabs on at risk students and to track progress.
     Several Oregon schools have implemented strategies to improve attendance and have made great progress. Among these schools is Farmington View Elementary, which has seen the chronic absent rate drop to below eight percent--less than half the state average.
      Aside from interventions already in place, experts have recommended that districts and counties provide preschool to parents. This allows families to practice good attendance before k-12. Other recommended measures include tracking of student attendance, raising public awareness chronic absenteeism, and implementing attendance promoting programs that target young children.
With the implementation of strategies to address chronic absence among Oregon’s school children, students can overcome chronic absence and increase their chances for success throughout their educational careers.


Sam Hughes is a work-study student for the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. They currently attend Western Oregon University as a Social Science major. To contact them, please email V@UnitedWayMWV.org





Riddle, Katia. "Showing Up, Staying In." Http://www.childinst.org/. Children's Institute, 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. .