empty classroom school desk

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Michigan Students Among Nation's Most Chronically Absent

December 06, 2018 - 8:52 am

ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) - A University of Michigan study finds poverty and homelessness play major roles in Michigan kids missing school -- contributing to the nearly one in six students deemed "chronically absent."

The study released Thursday finds roughly 16 percent of enrolled public and charter school students missed at least 10 percent of school days during the 2016-17 school year.

"These rates are cause for alarm," Jennifer Erb-Downward, senior researcher at U-M's Poverty Solutions, said in a statement. "We know chronically absent students are less likely to meet grade-level proficiency standards and are more likely to dropout."

[Click here to see a map of absenteeism by school district]

The analysis finds lower income students absent at three times the rate of their higher income peers. Close to one-third of African-American students were chronically absent, and homeless students had the highest absenteeism rate at 40 percent.

Researchers say children dealing with homelessness and poverty account for about half of the state's students and represent 75 percent of those chronically absent. High absence rates are found in districts statewide.

"If we are going to improve our state's education system, we need to figure out how to help kids get to school," Erb-Downward said. "The data show that to do that, we have to address the impact of homelessness and poverty."

The study's authors recommend early identification and outreach by schools to students and families.