Earlier this week, an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times made a strong argument about how to address a hidden but real problem in elementary schools in California and around the country: the fact that many young children, particularly those in poverty, are missing multiple days of school throughout the school year.
The answer, as with so many things, is to intervene early and get hard numbers on exactly what is going on. The op-ed urges the state of California to do a better job collecting data on exactly which students are missing school. Only with that data can a school district figure out what is keeping these young children from showing up. Is it illness? Transportation problems? A parents' misunderstanding about the importance of school even in these early years? If districts can pinpoint the root of the problem, they can start to solve it.
The op-ed was written by Hedy N. Chang, who directs the Chronic Absence Project, and Yolie Flores, a member of the LAUSD Board of Education and a senior associate at the Chronic Absence Project. In 2008, Chang co-authored a report titled "Present, Engaged, and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades," published by the National Center for Children in Poverty.
"The effects are profound," Chang and Flores write in this week's op-ed. Their research has found: