Improved School Attendance Aids Student Success

Improved Reading Scores Offer Validation That Regular School Attendance Plays Role in Academic Success

School District’s Success in Reducing Chronic Absenteeism is Reaping Reward

New Britain, Conn. (September 11, 2014) – With children back in school and school districts across the nation celebrating Attendance Awareness Month, there is no better time for the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain to applaud the hard work of the Consolidated School District of New Britain (CSDNB) and its noteworthy success in reducing chronic absenteeism.

The common-sense notion that the more regular a child’s attendance in school, the greater the likelihood of academic success, is being validated right here in New Britain. After two years of successful, concentrated effort by the district to improve school attendance district-wide, thanks in part to leadership and funding from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, the first indicators that this effort is positively impacting academic performance are now in hand.

Over the past two years, “chronic absence” – defined as the proportion of students missing 10 percent or more of school days – in New Britain has been reduced by more than 50 percent in kindergarten (55 percent), 1st grade (60 percent) and 2nd grade (53 percent). Meanwhile, the latest reading scores from the district show that the percentage of students reading at or above grade level kindergarten through 2nd grade improved by double digit percentages from Fall, 2013 to Spring, 2014: 17.54 percent in kindergarten, 10.76 percent in 1st grade and 13.3 percent in 2nd grade.

“There are many factors that no doubt have contributed to our improved reading scores,” said CSDNB Director of Attendance Joe Vaverchak, who along with Vance Village Elementary School principal Sarah Harris will take part in a national webinar on September 30 discussing successful chronic absenteeism strategies. “But I think there can be no doubt, particularly at the lower grade levels, that improved attendance is impacting our children from an academic achievement standpoint in a very positive way.”

According to statistics provided by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, there is a definitive correlation between regular attendance and achievement. Some 64 percent of students with satisfactory attendance in kindergarten and 1st grade are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. That number plummets to just 17 percent for students who missed 18 or more days in kindergarten and 1st grade.

Attendance Works, the nationally acclaimed initiative to promote the importance of school attendance, released a new report in August, “Absences Add Up: How Attendance Influences Student Success,” that further validates the connection between regular attendance and performance. According to the report, a state-by-state analysis of national testing data shows that students who miss more school than their peers score lower on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP). In many cases, the report states, students with more absences have skill levels one to two years below their peers.

CSDNB’s Chronic Absenteeism Initiative began two years ago when the Community Foundation brought in Attendance Works’ founder Hedy Chang and her staff to assist the District in tackling the issue. Since then, more than $50,000 in Foundation funding has helped continue the Attendance Works engagement, conduct workshops for educators, and pay for a dedicated district attendance outreach worker who works directly with parents and guardians to ensure that children attend school.

At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the percentage of New Britain kindergarten students who were considered chronically absent stood at 30 percent. At the close of the 2013-2014 school year in June, that kindergarten chronic absence figure stood at 13.41 percent, a 55 percent improvement.

Established in 1941, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain connects donors who care with causes that matter in Berlin, New Britain, Plainville and Southington. It does this by raising resources and developing partnerships that make a measurable improvement in the quality of life in each of these communities. For more information, visit www.cfgnb.org.