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Annual attendance conference yields plans to combat chronic absence

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More than 189 attendees from seven school districts in the central New Mexico area and beyond, dove deep into the creation of attendance teams at Mission: Graduate’s third annual attendance conference, entitled Every Day Matters: Building School-Based Plans to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism.

Participants included teams from Albuquerque Public Schools, Belen Consolidated School District, Bernalillo Public Schools, Cuba Independent School District, Los Lunas Schools, and Rio Rancho Public Schools, Roswell Independent School District, and Zia Pueblo.

Staff members from schools and district offices learned about the elements of a successful attendance team and how to use data to make decisions. The teams received coaching and had working time to discuss team formation, data collection, and strategy setting.

The goal of an attendance team is to use data to identify the root causes of chronic absence and then design targeted strategies to address the specific needs of each school. Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason, which equates to two days per month, on average. According to the national organization Attendance Works, starting as early as kindergarten or even preschool, chronic absence predicts lower third grade reading scores, and by middle school, it’s a warning sign of students falling off track to graduation.

“Schools across the country that are making gains in the battle against chronic absenteeism have two things in common: they are using data to identify the root causes of the problem, and they are organizing school-based teams to target solutions based on what the data are telling them,” explains Angelo Gonzales, Mission: Graduate’s Executive Director. “Decreasing the number of days that a student misses school requires a coordinated approach that involves educating parents about the consequences of chronic absence, understanding the reasons behind the absences, and having a team of passionate people at the school who know and care about the child and can offer assistance.” 

The conference is part of a national effort to highlight Attendance Awareness Month which happens every year in September.

The conference was sponsored by Mission: Graduate, NM PBS, and American Graduate.