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Michigan's chronic student absence rate above national average, says new report

Sep 6, 2016

Credit Bryan McDonald / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan ranks third in the country for having the most school districts with chronic absence rates at or above 30%. 

Nationwide, chronic absenteeism is about 13%. In Michigan, it's 18%.

That's according to a report released today by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

"Michigan faces challenges on two levels," said Robert Balfanz, executive director of the Everyone Graduates Center. "It has a high number of urban and suburban districts around many of its industrial or formerly industrial cities that have both high rates and large numbers of chronically absent kids. It also has a significant number of rural districts that have high rates of chronic absenteeism above 30%."

A student who misses 15 days of school a year for any reason is considered chronically absent, whether or not the absence is excused.

The report says studies show that kids who are chronically absent do less well in school and are more likely to drop out of high school.  

"Chronic absenteeism follows poverty wherever it is found," said Balfanz. "And poverty is found in both in urban areas and in rural areas."

"Many of the factors that keep kids from school are related to living in poverty: poor housing, poor transportation, exposure to environmental pollutants, higher rates of asthma," Balfanz said.

According to the report, more than half the students in Detroit and Battle Creek Public Schools are chronically absent.

The report highlights various approaches to combat chronic absenteeism and cites Grand Rapids as a city that has reduced it by over a third, from 35.1% district-wide to 22.5% in three years. The report attributes the reduction to the Grand Rapids School District's use of data to track and identify chronically absent students and to work with community agencies to address the needs of families.