17 Aug

3 Reasons Why Missing School Matters in Early Childhood

smiling girl

Does missing school matter for every student? It may seem like absences aren’t a big deal for young children. But in fact, consistent school attendance is especially important for pre-K and kindergarten students. Here are 3 reasons why Missing School Matters even for our youngest children.

Pre-K and kindergarten are “real school.”

Sure, pre-K and kindergarten are fun—kids get to color and play, dance and sing! That doesn’t mean they’re not learning, though. Actually, that hands-on learning helps build every part of a child’s growing brain,  building crucial social, motor, and communication skills. And these classes are filled with opportunities to develop number sense and concepts of print, providing the foundation for future math, reading, and writing success. Because children are developing these skills, they need lots of practice to firmly establish these important concepts. This is especially important to children who have very few books and activities to engage in at home.

According to Laura Koenig, School Readiness Director at E3 Alliance, “Public school pre-K programs may just be the greatest leverage we have to close achievement gaps for our children who start school already behind” (see “Are Our Children Ready for School?”).  Pre-K and kindergarten students who miss school miss out on these valuable opportunities to reach their full potential.

Solid attendance now = higher achievement later.

Did you know that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students across the nation are chronically absent? These missed days may be spread throughout the year, but they add up to nearly a month of lost instruction (see “Attendance in the Early Grades: Why It Matters for Reading”) . Attendance Works reports that students who miss 10 percent or more of the school year in kindergarten tend to experience lower academic achievement in 1st grade; if they are low-income students, that disadvantage persists all the way through 5th grade and often beyond (see “Debunking the Myths about School Attendance”). Pre-K and kindergarten students who miss school miss out on the chance to master new concepts early on.

Good habits start young.

We can’t always control when our kids miss school – children get sick, cars break down, family responsibilities come up. But if we can send a strong message to our children that attendance matters by consistently sending them to school as early as pre-K and kindergarten whenever we can, we increase the probability that as they get older, they will choose to be in school whenever they can. According to a study by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, students who missed 20 days or more in kindergarten were far more likely than their peers to be chronically absent every year after that, demonstrating that attendance patterns in early childhood can become deeply-rooted habits over time (see the full report for more details). Pre-K and kindergarten students who miss school miss out on forming positive school habits from the beginning.

But solving the problem isn’t just up to parents and kids: Attendance improves when parents believe schools are safe, trust the teachers, and feel connected to their local schools. More on that soon– our next two blogs will focus on attendance tips for families, then take a look at how schools across the nation are reaching out to their communities to combat absenteeism.

Convinced? Ready to help spread the word that Missing School Matters? Be sure to download and share our Parents’ Guide to Attendance, available on our Resources for Families page!

05 Aug

Rally With Us!

2015 Fall Attendance Rally Invitation

Our Fall 2015 Attendance Rally is less than one month away, and we’d love for you to rally with us! Join us on the Long Center Terrace to hear insights about how Central Texas as a community can prepare our students to succeed from Mayor Steve Adler, Seton ED Ashton Cumberbatch, Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron, and Manor ISD Superintendent Kevin Brackmeyer. Performances by the dynamic WAMM Nation Drumline of Manor ISD will get everyone energized for a new school year. You won’t want to miss it!

We hope you’ll plan to attend– and invite others to come with you!


22 Jun

The CTX Absence Reasons Study

Absence Reasons Study Summary

E3 Alliance uses objective data to drive collaborative change “cradle to career” in Central Texas. Recently the organization has focused its efforts on student attendance, an issue that has a “triple bottom line” impact on students, teachers, and school resources. In 2013, we conducted a study to collect detailed information about why students in Central Texas miss school. Our findings suggest that coordinated region-wide efforts to prevent acute illness can improve attendance for all students, while targeted interventions can help specific sub-populations of students to reduce absenteeism and experience greater academic success.

Key Findings:

  • 72% of absences are “true absences,” defined here as cases in which students are not in class, at another district campus, or participating in a school event.
  • Acute illnesses such as colds or flu account for 48% of all true absences in the region. The next most common reasons were skipping, chronic illness and family emergencies.
  • Absence frequency patterns were similar across two non-contiguous districts, and a spike in acute illness absences seen in both districts aligned with a spike in flu in the region.
  • Although half of Central Texas students are low-income, they account for more than half of mental health, and non-medical absences such as family responsibilities, skipping, and logistical problems getting to school.
  • Students at risk of dropping out are significantly more likely than their peers to miss school due to family responsibilities, logistical problems getting to school including transportation, skipping, out of school suspensions, and for legal reasons.
  • Males and students who were ever English Language Learners are more likely than their peers to miss school due to skipping, out of school suspensions, and for legal reasons.
  • Students in the 9th and 12th grades are more likely than students in other grades to skip class.

To learn more, please read the full report.

09 Jun

Prescriptions for Pre-K

AARO Rx pad2-page-0PRE-K FLYER3 (1)-page-0

The Austin Area Research Organization (AARO), together with E3 Alliance, has been working with a group of committed business and civic leaders who believe that one of the best investments we can make is to ensure children are ready for Kindergarten when they enter school. Our regional data shows that children who attend a pre-K program are far more likely to be ready for school than children who stay home or with a relative. We know that in Central Texas not every child who could attend a pre-K program is enrolling.  For this reason, regional leaders are supporting a pre-K enrollment initiative focused on getting the ~ 2,000 eligible children in our region who are not enrolled to be registered and attending pre-K in Central Texas.  We know from the data that enrolling them in pre-K will not only increase their readiness and avoid later interventions, it will save our region $30M over their lifetimes for each year’s cohort of four year olds who attend pre-K!

This is not a broad billboard or advertising campaign; we are looking for just ~2,000 specific families. We want to reach them through programs and service providers who they already know and use and trust. We are working with a team of dozens health professionals and social service agencies and nonprofits to get the word out to eligible families so they can register for pre-K in their district.

One unique way local health professionals are supporting this is effort is by providing  families whose young children are not currently enrolled with a “prescription” for a local pre-K program, complete with contact information for local school districts. The prescription is written in both English and Spanish so that it can be useful to as many families as possible.

If you’re interested in helping with our pre-K enrollment initiative, please contact Laura Koenig, Director of School Readiness, at lkoenig@e3alliance.org.

To learn more about how parents can prepare their young children for school, please explore E3 Alliance’s School Readiness Parent Guide.