Governor McKee Hosts Statewide Event to Address Chronic Absenteeism

The National Governors Association (NGA) joined Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee, Always Learning Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Education May 11 to hold a ceremony at the Providence community gathering WaterFire to celebrate the state’s efforts to address chronic absenteeism through the Learn365RI Initiative.

The May 11 event comes following extensive work Governor McKee and his administration have been leading to help decrease absenteeism, a definition Attendance Works notes is typically used when students miss ten percent or more of the school year,with missed days including excused absences, unexcused absences and suspensions.

NGA support Governor McKee’s event through the organization’s K-12 Education Team’s 2023-2024 Academic Supports and Student and School Staff Well-Being Project. Rhode Island is part of a cohort of nine states working with NGA to address students’ academic needs, such as chronic absenteeism, summer learning and enrichment, and student and school staff mental health and well-being.

Addressing chronic absenteeism is a top priority for Governors and states. As Governor McKee’s office has noted, “school attendance is a powerful predictor of student outcomes.” In Rhode Island, “2023 assessment data [show] that, on average, chronically absent students in Rhode Island performed lower than their non-chronically absent peers by 19.9-26 percentage points. Chronic absenteeism is also linked to increased suspensions and teen substance use, as well as poor health as adults.”

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the country saw an increase of school absences. Stanford University research notes chronic absenteeism sored nationwide by 13.5 points during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning 6.5 million additional students were chronically absent. Like other states, Rhode Island has experienced challenges with an increase in chronic absenteeism, leading Governor McKee and his administration to implement several policies, initiatives and campaigns to help reduce chronic absenteeism.

In addition to forming Rhode Island’s Chronic Absenteeism Working Group, the Attendance Matters campaign launched to help families understand the importance of daily attendance and the consequences of chronic absenteeism. The campaign offers a number of resources such as a video messages featuring Governor McKee and other states leaders speaking about the importance of school attendance. The campaign also includes robo calls and billboards designed to help inspire students to stay engaged in their studies while stressing the importance of regular attendance.

The Rhode Island Student Attendance Leaderboard also serves as a real time dashboard that is updated daily to help leaders identify possible attendance issues. The dashboard notes that historically “chronic absenteeism in Rhode Island has been calculated at the end of each school year, which is often too late for schools and districts to help get students to school,” but with the new dashboard updated daily, the resource is helping in the state’s efforts to decrease chronic absenteeism.   

Other states have continued to lead efforts to address chronic absenteeism. For example, in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin created the Chronic Absenteeism Task Force to address students’ academic needs through attendance and will develop resources and distribute action plans for school divisions to address absenteeism rates. Governor Youngkin also signed legislation to increase state funding to support student attendance.

Contact Seth Gerson with NGA’s K-12 Education Team to learn more about Governor McKee’s initiatives as well as the broader work NGA is leading to help support Governors on academic supports and well-being, including chronic absenteeism.