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The Importance of School Attendance

Every Day Matters isn’t just a slogan, it’s a fundamental truth about education. Every school day is a building block to the next. The absence of these building blocks creates holes in learning that may cause a student to fall behind and impact their readiness for the next grade level. Read on to learn about the potentially devastating effects of chronic absenteeism and the benefits of making a habit of attending every school day.

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It is important to recognize that a habit of attendance is not only a school readiness skill but a life skill. Consistent, on-time attendance creates a discipline that carries into adulthood. Conversely, allowing students to miss school in the early grades may teach them that such behavior is acceptable in later grades.

Children who are consistently absent in their early years—preschool, kindergarten, and first grade—are significantly less likely to read at grade level by the third grade, a critical milestone in academic development. Proficiency in reading by this stage is a key predictor of a student’s future success.

A study of public school students in Utah found that a chronic absenteeism in even a single year between 8th and 12th grade was associated with a 7-fold increase in the likelihood of the student dropping out of high school.

Chronically absent students are more likely to experience challenges such as poverty, diminished health, and involvement in the criminal justice system.


Missing school is about more than missing one day, it is something that – when it becomes chronic – has long term implications not only on a student’s education but their success after school:

  • Absenteeism is a multi-layered issue with contributing factors such as transportation, homelessness and poverty.
  • Missing school in the first month of school can predict poor attendance throughout the school year, with half of the students who miss 2-4 days in September going on to miss nearly a month of school.
  • Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade.
  • By 6th grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
  • When students improve their attendance rates, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.
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Student attendance is in the news a lot — from the New York Times to TV and newspapers right here in Iowa. DMPS Superintendent Dr. Ian Roberts, Director of School Climate Transformation Jake Troja, and Jennifer Stalder, who works with Success Case Workers on the frontline of the attendance challenge, are our guests on this episode of The Become Here Project: A Des Moines Public Schools podcast.


Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing at least 10% of school days in a year for any reason, poses a significant threat to a student’s educational success.

For example, a student who misses as few as two days per month for each month of the school year falls into the category of chronic absenteeism. ​

To read the letter to families from Des Moines Public Schools about chronic absenteeism, click here.

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We all want the same outcome, a successful student! Below are some resources for your family if your student is struggling with chronic absenteeism. You can also call your school office for help.

Chronic Absenteeism: Understanding the Basics
Elementary School Families
Middle and High School Families 

Chronic Absenteeism: School-Related Anxiety
Help for Anxiety at Any Age

School Calendars for Download
DMPS Academic Calendars


DMPS teachers and staff are focused on providing a quality education to our students.

It is crucial for parents and guardians to actively foster a culture of regular attendance for the benefit of their children’s academic success and future endeavors.

Every Day Matters.

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