The White House and U.S. Department of Education has announced new efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism among K-12 students in 10 cities, including Seattle.
Seattle is one of 10 cities that will be part of a new federal effort to reduce the number of students who are chronically absent from school, which the White House on Friday called an epidemic.
An estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students nationwide are chronically absent each school year, according to the White House, which means they miss 18 or more school days in one year.
In Washington, 174,000 students were labeled chronic absentees in the 2014-2015 school year, according to data released this week from the state superintendent’s office. That’s about one in every 10 students.
In Seattle, the rate is about one in every six students.
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Students in the 10 U.S. cities will be connected with mentors, the White House and U.S. Department of Education announced Friday.
Those mentors will work with sixth- and ninth-grade students in low-income areas, with the goal of reaching more than 250,000 students over two years. The initiative aims to reach more than 1 million students in all grades within the next three to five years.
Education officials said the rates of chronic absences are consistently higher in impoverished areas. In Seattle, 17 percent of low-income students were chronically absent last year, according to state superintendent data.
Along with Seattle, the other nine cities in the initiative are Austin, Texas; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; New York City; Philadelphia; Providence, R.I.; and San Antonio. Other cities are expected to join later this year.
The mentors will have three to five students as mentees and help flag potential causes for absences in the students’ lives, according to the education department. The mentors will meet with the students three times per week.
“This effort is truly an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Broderick Johnson, an assistant to President Obama and White House Cabinet secretary.
Johnson also serves as chairman of the task force for the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which was launched by Obama to address opportunity gaps faced by male students of color. The new initiative to address chronic absenteeism builds on My Brother’s Keeper.
Along with the new initiative, the White House announced a new ad campaign aimed at parents of students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The campaign will highlight the impacts on students when they miss too many school days.