DES MOINES, Iowa -- In June, Gov. Terry E. Branstad created a Chronic Absenteeism Advisory Council to address chronic absenteeism in Iowa schools.
The plans were announced at the 2016 Future Ready Iowa Summit, which began a statewide conversation about how to close the skills gap, one of the biggest challenges Iowa faces.
“Anytime we can engage with people that come from so many different backgrounds and can bring different assets and resources to the table is a powerful opportunity to work together to address a challenge like this,” said Ryan Wise, Director of the Iowa Department of Education.
Chronic Absenteeism is a fairly new concept in Iowa and Wise says that each district defines differently and that is one of the problems.
One of the challenges in the first couple meetings has been how to get everyone to use the same criteria across the state and this is what they came up with.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, excused or unexcused. In Iowa, that means at least 18 days of school a year, or nearly a month.
Chronically absent students are more than one and a half times less likely to be proficient in reading by the end of third grade according to analysis by the Child and Family Policy Center. In Iowa, nearly 25 percent of students did not read proficiently by the end of third grade in 2014-2015. Those numbers reflect the skills gap that could potentially be keeping students from graduating from high school ready for college or career training.
The council will meet one more time and will make final recommendations to the Administration in November to solve the issues. Wise knows, though, this is a battle that needs to be attacked on all fronts, the boardroom, the home room, and the living room.
“When parents really realize that absences add up. What seems in isolation, as not that big of a deal, over time can have a real impact on their student’s achievement,” says Wise.