Enlisting a school nurse to get in touch with the families of chronically absent students can cut down on school absenteeism, a pilot study has found.
Authors of the study published this month in The Journal of School Nursing tracked early-grade absences in the first 90 days of the school year in three North Carolina schools: two elementary schools and one Head Start program. When students missed more than 20 percent or more of school, a nurse and a social worker were sent together to the family’s home.
Of the 1,600 absences recorded at the start of the school year, families reported 70 percent of the time that they were due to illness. But the nurses found that the actual rate of health-related absences was 40 percent, with many children missing school because of family activities or transportation problems.
After 60 days of contacting families, absenteeism was lower at both elementary schools, compared with the previous year. The Head Start data were considered unreliable.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as Absenteeism