Schools working to address chronic absenteeism - - Jackson, MS

Schools working to address chronic absenteeism

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PEARL, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Whether they're skipping class or not, absences are adding up for students across the state. And when they're not in school, they're not learning.

The definition of chronic absenteeism is missing 10 percent or more of the time enrolled. That includes excused and unexcused absences.

"You never know until you ask those questions," said Pearl High School principal Chris Chism.

It's that mindset that's leading the way Pearl High School thinks about chronic absenteeism.

"What we consider chronic absenteeism are the kids that just aren't coming to school," added Chism.

Master Chief Willie Lott was brought on staff to be the drop out prevention coordinator.

"We're not just looking at numbers and say this is too high or too low," noted Lott. "What can we do to correct it or improve it? You go through that process and try to pinpoint what's causing that particular child to miss school. You just don't know all the time."

Lott works to build relationships and make sure the kids know someone cares whether or not they're at school.

"I'll be in the commons every morning," explained Lott. "Kids going to class. I'm talking to everybody; good morning, glad to see you here, things like that. I tell you, it means a lot."

The Department of Education's report shows Mississippi follows the national trends. Chronic absenteeism is high in kindergarten, tapers off in elementary school, and climbs throughout high school and middle school.

Principal Chris Chism says they'd still like to see lawmakers change the compulsory school age from 17 to 18.

"The law says after 17 they don't have to come to school," described Chism. "And kids know that: parents know that. Courts over the years have said that we can't punish the kids academically for missing school."

Still, they look to graduation rates here as another indicator for the success of their attendance enforcement.

"It's climbed pretty dramatically and I think that's a direct result of things we've been doing for chronic absenteeism," added Chism.

To see the Department of Education's full report, including a breakdown by school and district, click HERE.

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