Hopkins researcher aids White House initiative on school absenteeism

Robert Balfanz, professor at Johns Hopkins School of Education, aids White House effort on absenteeism

A Johns Hopkins University researcher has been tapped by the Obama administration to help an initiative aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism in public schools by at least 10 percent a year.

The initiative — Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism — relies on research by Robert Balfanz, a research professor at the Center for the Social Organization of Schools at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

The project is focused on the 5 million to 7.5 million students who, Balfanz estimates, are chronically absent each year — a designation that means they miss about 18 days (10 percent) in a school year.

The administration is partnering with states, communities, nonprofits, faith and philanthropic organizations, supported by the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice.

The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, led by Balfanz, is partnering with education officials to host "Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence," on Nov. 12, to provide school districts and communities with strategies for improving school attendance, eliminate chronic absenteeism and close achievement gaps, especially among youth who are at risk of becoming chronically absent.

In addition, the Johns Hopkins School of Education will be part of a public-private partnership to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism.

Officials say children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade; students reading below grade level in the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

By high school, a student who is chronically absent in any year between the eighth and 12th grades is seven times more likely to drop out.

"When we first started our work, the scale and scope of chronic absenteeism was not widely known nor understood," said Balfanz in a press release from Hopkins. "It's heartening to see that today a federal interagency effort to reduce chronic absenteeism has been launched."

For more information about Every Day Every Child, including video messages from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, go to ed.gov/chronicabsenteeism.

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