Legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) to track and address chronic absenteeism at New Jersey’s public schools was advanced by the Senate Education Committee.
Sen. Diane Allen’s legislation would better track and address chronic absenteeism at New Jersey public schools. (Flickr)
“Students that repeatedly miss school aren’t getting the education they deserve,” Senator Allen said. “They fall behind their classmates and suffer serious setbacks in their studies that can have a significant effect on their future success. We need to make attendance a top priority, and this legislation helps us do that.”
The bill, S-447, will require data on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspension to be included on the School Report Card. It also mandates a plan for schools that are dealing with high levels of absenteeism.
Chronic absenteeism is when a student’s total number of absences (including excused, unexcused and absences due to disciplinary action) meets or exceeds 10-percent of the total number of school days in a year. According to a recent study conducted by the non-profit Advocates for Children of New Jersey, 136,000 or 10-percent of the state’s K-12 students were chronically absent in the 2014-2015 school year.
If 10-percent or more of a school’s student body is chronically absent, the school will now have to develop a corrective plan to improve their absentee rates. The plan would include the following:
- Identifying problems and barriers to school attendance.
- Developing recommendations to address the problems and barriers to school attendance that have been identified.
- Outlining communication strategies to educate and inform parents on the importance of school attendance.
- Establishing protocols on informing and engaging parents when a child begins to show a pattern of absences.
- Reviewing school policies to ensure that they support improved school attendance.
“The best way to reduce absences is to build relationships between parents and their children’s teachers,” Senator Allen said. “That helps us start to address the root issues that lead to absences and gets more kids back into classrooms.”
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