By Elena Sokolow-Kaufman, manager of government relations and field resources
It is widely understood that school attendance is a critical step towards student academic achievement. Intuitively, it makes sense that youth need to be in class in order to have a chance at absorbing course material and to apply what they are learning.
But as many as 7.5 million U.S. students miss nearly a month of school each year. Research shows that students in the early grades who are chronically absent are less likely to achieve reading proficiency by third grade, and for middle school and high school youth this absenteeism is connected to higher rates of high school dropout.
Mentoring is one strategy that can be leveraged to address this challenge. National studies have shown that mentoring positively impacts attendance, as students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class.
Mentoring programs in Massachusetts can also demonstrate this impact through changes in risk-taking attitude and actual improvements in attendance. In Big Sister Association of Greater Boston’s school-based programs, 98.1 percent of mentees reported stable or improved attitudes about skipping school. City Year Boston mentees achieved a nearly 92 percent attendance rate for the year, while 68.8 percent of high school mentees and 80 percent of middle school mentees from Springfield School Volunteers program had an overall attendance rate higher than the average attendance rate for high school students in the district.
With all this data in mind, I strongly encourage policy makers and philanthropists to consider mentoring as part of any approach to improve attendance rates and bolster student success.
For more information on Attendance Awareness Month visit http://www.attendanceworks.org/attendancemonth/.