Hedy Chang

Hedy N. Chang is director of Attendance Counts.

Recent Articles

Missing Out on Reading

Children can't learn to read if they're not in school -- and chronic absenteeism is a problem we can fix.

Four years ago, the teachers at Robert Bailey IV Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island, set a goal that all their students would learn to read well by the end of third grade. They adjusted their curriculum, developed an individual learning plan for each struggling reader, and launched an engaging summer program. But they quickly realized that whatever they did inside the classroom wasn't going to matter much if the students weren't showing up for school. An attendance analysis found that one in five of their young students was missing the equivalent of a month of school each year. This wasn't truancy in the traditional sense, because parents usually know when kindergartners and first-graders are staying home and call in to the school with an excuse. But "chronic absence" -- defined as missing 10 percent of the school days -- was affecting academic achievement nonetheless. As school officials looked over the data and as teachers talked to parents, patterns began to emerge. The...