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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Bob Balfanz

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November 20, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Guest: Communities should work together to keep kids in class

Robert Balfanz

Robert Balfanz


Nationwide, 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent each year. In Seattle, this amounts to missing at least 18 days — or about a month’s worth of school.

All too often, no one notices or even cares if these kids don’t show up.

Our research at Johns Hopkins University shows that chronic absence is a strong predictor of who will eventually drop out of school. And the problem starts early. One study estimated that one in 10 of the nation’s kindergarten and first-grade students were chronically absent.

These early absences can leave children lagging in basic reading and math skills and can establish an entrenched pattern of chronic absenteeism as students move into middle and high school. Chronically absent students also are more likely to wind up in the juvenile justice system.

The good news is that mayors, school districts and communities have a relatively low-cost way to raise academic achievement, increase graduation rates, reduce juvenile justice costs and build better pathways out of poverty: that is, to work together to get their students to attend school every day.


Comments | More in Guest opinion | Topics: absenteeism, attendance, Bob Balfanz

November 20, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Question of the Week: Is it ever OK to let kids skip school?

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Recent research from Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Balfanz has shed new light on the connection between chronic absenteeism and high-school dropout rates.

Among his findings: sixth-graders who miss 20 or more days of class have just a 20-percent chance of graduating on time.

Although chronic absenteeism — defined as missing 18 or more days of class in Seattle — can have dire consequences, the data also show that missing just a week of school can have detrimental effects.


Comments | More in Question of the Week | Topics: absenteeism, attendance, Bob Balfanz

November 20, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Rewind: View a transcript of Friday’s chat on why attendance matters

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Missing just a few days of class in sixth grade can predict whether you’ll graduate from high school. That research is behind a national anti-dropout effort, and its impact at two Seattle middle schools was the subject of a Thursday story from Education Lab reporter Claudia Rowe.


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: attendance, Becka Gross, Bob Balfanz