State officials are convening a new council to study why Iowa kids are missing school. The advisory group is to come up with a plan of action by November to try to combat the problem in kindergarten through third grade.
Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says nearly seven percent of all Iowa students were “chronically absent” during the 2014/2015 school year.
“Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason whether it’s excused or unexcused,” Reynolds says. “And, in Iowa, that typically means missing at least 18 days of school a year, which is close to a month of school.”
Recent research links school attendance to reading proficiency. Reynolds says the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center tracked attendance from kindergarten through third grade.
“Here are some of the report’s key findings: a third of Iowa school districts and nearly 40 percent of elementary schools have chronic absentee rates among kindergarteners that are over 10 percent,” Reynolds says.
The report also found chronically absent kindergarteners were one-and-a-half times less likely to be reading well by the end of third grade.
Jean Kresse is president and CEO of United Way of Story County. Since early 2012, her organization has been part of the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading.
“We know that too many children, especially children from families with low incomes, miss too many days of school,” Kresse says. “…Communities must come together, collectively, and find solutions that work.”
Tests found one quarter of the Iowa students who finished third grade in May of 2015 were unable to read at the third-grade level. The state’s new Chronic Absenteeism Advisory Council will hold its first meeting in August. Educators from around the state as well as officials from the court system and a few state legislators are serving on the council.
Here’s the list of council members:
1) Lisa Bartusek, Iowa Association of School Boards executive director
2) Irma Becerra, English Language Learner and Migrant Program assistant, Marshalltown Community School District
3) Connie Boesen, Des Moines Community School District School Board member
4) Martha Bruckner, Council Bluffs Community School District superintendent
5) Charles Bruner, Child & Family Policy Center emeritus founding executive director
6) Anne Discher, Child & Family Policy Center communications director/senior research associate
7) Linda Fandel, Branstad-Reynolds Administration special assistant for education/Iowa Chronic Absenteeism Advisory Council facilitator
8) Jaci Feuss, Cedar Falls Community School District kindergarten teacher
9) Ruth Ann Gaines, state representative, Des Moines
10) Rita Hart, state senator, Wheatland
11) Roark Horn, School Administrators of Iowa executive director
12) Chad Jensen, Fifth Judicial District of Iowa chief juvenile court officer
13) Kevin Koester, state representative, Ankeny
14) Jean Kresse, United Way of Story County president and CEO/ United Ways of Iowa board chair
15) Kari McCann, Iowa Council of Foundations president
16) Becky Miles-Polka, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading senior consultant, Iowa lead
17) Pam Nation, Ankeny Community School District middle school at-risk resource/special education teacher, and Professional Educators of Iowa representative
18) Scott Parry, Kluckhohn Elementary School principal, Le Mars Community School District
19) Deborah Reed, Iowa Reading Research Center director
20) Jerry Riibe, Muscatine Community School District superintendent
21) Amy Sinclair, state senator, Allerton
22) Elliott Smith, Iowa Business Council executive director
23) Chad Steckel, New Albin Elementary School principal, Eastern Allamakee Community School District
24) Annette Taylor, assistant Polk County attorney
25) Tammy Wawro, Iowa State Education Association president
26) Amy Whittington, PK-6 elementary principal, Central Decatur Community School District
27) Paulette Wiley, Des Moines community activist and family advocate
28) Thatcher Williams, Iowa PTA
29) Amy Williamson, Iowa Department of Education Bureau of School Improvement chief
30) Ryan Wise, Iowa Department of Education director