New Jersey public K-12 schools face an epidemic of chronic absenteeism for students  which can be damaging as these kids have lower test scores in both reading and math as well as stunted social skills. They are also more likely to drop out of school, leaving them economically disadvantaged for the rest of their lives. “In fact, a student’s excessive absences in ninth grade are a more accurate predictor of whether that student will drop out of high school than his or her 8th grade test scores,” according to a report released by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) titled Showing Up Matters.

The good news is that progress has been made in New Jersey to reduce absenteeism and with little expense. In Patterson at School 5, where 95 percent of the student body is economically disadvantaged, mentors were assigned to students; rewards were recognized for improved attendance; and organized groups of students and families to walk to school together or walking school buses were coordinated with families as a way to address safety issues.  These are simple and cheap ways to reduce absenteeism and help students achieve academically.

Safe Routes to School Regional Coordinators can offer free technical assistance with organizing and starting walking school buses in communities all across New Jersey which can help students in your school succeed. To find the Regional Coordinator in your area, click here.

To read the full article, “For NJ students to succeed, epidemic of chronic absenteeism must end,” click here.