PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is now making data on chronically absent students available to the public.
An Eyewitness News review of the data shows Woonsocket, Pawtucket and Providence have the highest percentage of students who are on track to be chronically absent, or miss at least 10 percent of the school year.
Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said students who are often absent have been shown to have higher dropout rates and below-grade-level reading skills.
“I know that everybody is talking about Providence, but it’s not just a Providence problem. It’s a Rhode Island problem,” she said.
In addition to the publicly available “Attendance Leaderboard,” RIDE also rolled out its “Attendance Nudge Tool,” which allows schools and districts to track student attendance and draft letters or text messages to parents of children who are missing too many days.
“It allows them to track the attendance, to see patterns, to actually address the attendance instead of just recording it,” Infante-Green explained.
Infante-Green said the tool will also allow parents to understand how quickly a few days here and there can add up, a point echoed by the chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education, Barbara Cottam.
“Chronic absence translates to just two days per month, so we need all stakeholders to work together to ensure that families know what chronic absence is and how it can negatively impact their child’s achievement,” Cottam said in a statement.
RIDE also plans to publicly release teacher absenteeism data. Infante-Green said the teacher data should be ready to publish within the coming weeks but she and others at RIDE are working to determine how much of the data will be posted, citing privacy concerns.
“We’re trying to be transparent about a problem we all know we have, that we’re trying to work on and correct,” she said. “I think the community needs to know that that’s happening. That’s important information.”