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!