Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40) to track and addresses chronic absenteeism at New Jersey’s public schools was advanced by the Senate Education Committee.
Sen. Corrado bill to combat chronic absenteeism that is affecting many New Jersey school districts. (Flickr)
“When our young students frequently miss school they are losing access to a key tool for success, an education,” said Corrado. “Falling behind in school can lead to long-term literacy problems and difficulty with basic mathematical concepts, which can hinder a child’s ability to succeed throughout life.”
The bill, S-1876, would improve tracking by New Jersey school systems, requiring data on chronic absenteeism and disciplinary suspension to be included on the School Report Card. Additionally, the bill mandates schools to address the causes of chronic absenteeism.
Chronic absenteeism refers to students who miss 10 percent or more of enrolled school days. A student who misses two days per month during the school year, totaling 18 days out of 180-day school year, is considered chronically absent.
Throughout New Jersey, more than 125,000 students were considered chronically absent in the 2015-16 school year, including 11,460 students residing in Passaic County according to the nonprofit Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
A report by The Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted some of the causes of chronic absences, including bullying, a lack of transportation, parents asking students to stay home to help the household, and untreated mental health issues.
The legislation would require a school to develop a corrective plan to improve their absentee rates if 10-percent or more of the school’s student body is chronically absent. The corrective plan must:
- Identify problems and barriers to school attendance.
- Develop recommendations to address the problems and barriers to school attendance that have been identified.
- Outline communication strategies to educate and inform parents on the importance of school attendance.
- Establish protocols on informing and engaging parents when a child begins to show a pattern of absences.
- Review school policies to ensure that they support improved school attendance.
“Community solutions, including both parents and educators, are needed to address chronic absenteeism,” said Corrado. “By adjusting our perspective to go beyond school walls, we can create strategies that will help children to stay not only in the classroom but on a path to success.”
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