Chronically absent students continue to increase in number despite efforts by school districts to combat the problem (“Schools Crack Down as More Students Cut Class,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 31). Nearly 8 million, or about 16 percent of students, are chronically absent for missing at least 15 days in the 2015-16 school year.
There are many reasons for the disturbing trend. I think the most important is that many students see little, if any, connection between what they are required to study and their lives. But there are also students who need to take care of their younger siblings because their parents don’t have the funds to hire babysitters. What works in the former will not work in the latter.
Incentives have a mixed track record because they are a shotgun approach. Bribery can sometimes work for borderline cases. But when poverty is so severe that parents must rely on their oldest children to care for their youngest, they are ineffective. Attendance officers can identify the cause of chronic absenteeism and help parents get their children back on track.
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