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Study: Attendance Is Spotty in D.C.'s Preschools

"Insights Into Absenteeism in DCPS Early Childhood Program"

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About one in four preschoolers in Title I schools in the District of Columbia school system missed 10 percent or more of the 2013-14 school year, finds a study by the Washington-based Urban Institute.

Concerns over preschool attendance has risen in recent years, as emerging research suggests chronically absent preschoolers often become elementary students who are chronically absent and educationally delayed.

Children who missed the most preschool were the ones whom experts believe to be the most in need of the boost that a high-quality, early-childhood program provides. They include children with disabilities, homeless children, and those whose families qualify for welfare payments.

Student Absenteeism by Attendance Category

While attendance has improved in the District of Columbia’s Title I preschools, absenteeism rates for more than half of students last school year were high enough to be considered "severe," "chronic" or "at risk."

Absences were more common on a Monday or Friday, on half days, and also in January (the onset of winter weather) and June (the end of the Head Start year). Even missing one day every two weeks adds up to around 18 days, or close to a month’s worth of classes, the study found.

The Urban Institute’s suggestions for tackling preschool absenteeism could be imported into other preschool programs: In addition to educating parents, preschool programs can work to connect families with social services, make schools more welcoming to parents, and use data to track student attendance and create triggers for immediate intervention, such as three absences within the first 25 days of school.

Vol. 34, Issue 20, Page 5

Published in Print: February 4, 2015, as Study: Attendance Is Spotty in D.C.'s Preschools
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