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Making Every Day Count for Arkansas Kids
/ October 28, 2016

When literacy coach Liz Easley first came to work at Marvell-Elaine Elementary School, many students couldn’t read. The school’s leadership, however, has been hard at work to create a positive school climate focusing on supporting each child—and the results are showing. Perhaps most significantly, between the 2012-13 and 2014-15 school years, the chronic absence rate at the school dropped from 18 percent to 7 percent. 

Marvell-Elaine is one of eight Arkansas school districts currently working with the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s (AR-GLR) “Make Every Day Count” initiative. It’s an effort to help schools, districts and communities track chronic absence, and to develop and implement plans for keeping children in classrooms. Data show that when children miss too much school, they miss out on critical instruction—and are less likely to read proficiently.

AR-GLR, partnering with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF), recently released a new report, Make Every Day Count: Reducing Chronic Absence in Arkansas Schools. It details chronic absence data in the state—and some strategies to address the issue. The report includes an analysis by AACF of Arkansas Department of Education data showing that:
  • Chronic absence starts early. Over 13 percent of kindergarten and first grade students miss a month or more of school. 
  • Nearly all elementary schools in Arkansas had some chronically absent students in 2014-2015. However, one-quarter of chronically absent students were concentrated in just ten percent of the state’s 522 elementary schools.
  • Chronically absent third graders are less likely to read on grade level. Only 20 percent of chronically absent students read on grade-level as opposed to 30 percent of non-chronically absent students.
  • Economic disadvantage affects attendance. Students from low-income families were twice as likely to be chronically absent.
AR-GLR and AACF presented the report—which also outlines tiered interventions used by Marvell-Elaine and other bright spot schools, including Monitor and Parson Hills Elementary Schools in Springdale—to the Arkansas Board of Education on October 14. AR-GLR also produced an online toolkit: Leading Attendance in Arkansas: How principals can help students succeed by reducing chronic absence. It outlines five strategies to help principals develop a comprehensive plan to reduce chronic absence in their schools. 

The report and the toolkit are the two latest resources being used to support AR-GLR’s Make Every Day Count initiative. In addition to Marvell-Elaine, the initiative is currently working in Atkins, Fort Smith, Greenbrier, Hope, Hot Springs, Springdale, and Western Yell County. However, the campaign’s resources are available online for anyone.

To learn more, or to find out how your school or district can participate in the Make Every Day Count Learning Community, contact AR-GLR Campaign Director Angela Duran.

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