Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, director of Attendance Works Credit: Photo courtesy attendanceworks.org

Nearly one in 10 public schools in Mississippi report rates of extreme chronic absenteeism, or 30 percent or more students missing at least 15 percent of the school year, according to a national report.

Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center’s report “Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence” shows 88 of 902 schools in Mississippi, or 9 percent,  report “extreme chronic absence,” defined as 30 percent or more of students are chronically absent in a given school year.

More Mississippi high schools experience extreme chronic absence than elementary and middle schools, according to the report.

The national average for extreme chronic absence is 8 percent. Nationwide, absence levels are significantly higher in schools with larger percentages of low-income students.

“Missing too many days of school for any reason puts children at risk academically and can translate into a child who can’t read by the end of third grade, fails courses in middle school and eventually drops out of high school,” said Hedy N. Chang, executive director of Attendance Works.

The report suggests parents and communities work together to ensure children, especially in the early grades, do not miss too much school because of health issues or unreliable transportation.

“The research is clear about the link between chronic absence and student achievement. If children are not in school, they are not learning,” said Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Parents, school and communities need to work together to ensure that students are attending and staying engaged in school every day.”

Highlights from the report:

25 percent of Miss. schools report “low chronic absence,” or less than 5 percent

15 percent report “modest chronic absence,” between 5 and 10 percent

36 percent report “significant chronic absence,” between 10 and 20 percent

14 percent report “high chronic absence,” between 20 and 30 percent

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.