Helios: Chronic absenteeism disproportionately affects AZ's lower-income students

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2023 - 2:31pm
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The Helios Education Foundation has released a study on chronic absenteeism in Arizona.

Students of color and those from lower income families are disproportionately affected by the issue.

Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year. In Arizona, that’s about 18 days of class.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s annual chronic absence rate hovered around 12% to 14%. In 2021, it shot up to 22%.

Hedy Chang is the executive director at Attendance Works, a group that works with schools to address chronic absences. She said there are a lot of reasons for certain kids to miss that much school.

“[Maybe] it’s not the right placement so you’re feeling embarrassed or feeling behind, you don’t even want to go to school, she said. "That’s a big issue and can be a big issue for any kid, it affects low-income kids more.”

That’s because they don’t have the same resources like access to reliable transportation.

The Helios report says chronic absenteeism is linked to diminished learning outcomes and an increased likelihood of negative outcomes, like dropping out of high school, that can divert students from paths to postsecondary and professional success.

The organization is working with stakeholders and educators to come up with solutions.