Proclamation by Iowa Governor focuses on chronic absenteeism

The Iowa Council of Foundations, the Iowa Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the State of Iowa has announced efforts to recognize September as Attendance Awareness Month and has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September. The groups pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.
Friday, September 4, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation in the formal office at the State Capitol in Des Moines declaring September as Attendance Awareness Month in the state of Iowa.
Iowa funders, parents, school and community leaders recognize that good attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year - or about 18 days - for any reason, excused or unexcused. That's the point at which absenteeism begins to affect student performance, research shows.
Nationally, five million to seven-and-a-half million students miss nearly a month of school in excused and unexcused absences every year. Starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower third grade reading scores. By middle school it's a warning sign that students will fail key classes and drop out of high school.
Chronic absence disproportionately affects children from low-income families and communities of color, creating attendance gaps that exacerbate achievement gaps in local schools. This is not just a matter of truancy. Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves - barriers that city agencies and community partners can help families address.
In September, schools, city agencies, community nonprofits, faith-based groups, businesses and others around the nation are committing time and resources to raise public awareness, map local attendance gaps and work with community partners to improve school attendance starting as soon as children enter school. In Iowa, 11 communities and regions are part of the Campaign for Grade level Reading and include Ames, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Valley, Dyersville, Dubuque, Jackson County, Grinnell, Marshalltown and the Quad Cities.
With funding support from an anonymous donor the Iowa Council of Foundations and the Iowa Campaign for Grade Level Reading have formed the Iowa Attendance Learning Network to provide Iowa communities with customized technical assistance from Attendance Works around the important issue of chronic absence.
"September is a particularly good time to focus on attendance," said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national nonprofit dedicated to improve school attendance. "Research shows that students who miss two to four days in the first month of school are more likely to become chronically absent during the school year. By paying attention to absences early in the school year and early in a child's academic career, we can turn around attendance and achievement."