13 percent of Minnesota schools have 'extreme' chronic absence rates

New analysis of federal data finds that more than one in 10 Minnesota schools have an "extreme" absenteeism problem.

The report found 13 percent of Minnesota schools where 30 percent or more of students were chronically absent during the 2013-14 school year. The report defines chronic absence as missing 15 or more days of school.

Education advocacy group Attendance Works director Hedy Chang said schools can prevent absenteeism by "making sure that you have an engaging school climate, you have positive relationships, it's a place that kids want to go."

Attendance Works published the report with researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Data comes from the federal Office for Civil Rights.

Chang said mentorship and early intervention can help address absenteeism when it does occur.

"Putting in place this kind of comprehensive approach ... is something that requires community partners," Chang said.

The report finds that Minnesota high schools, alternative schools and schools for special education students have some of the highest rates of extreme chronic absenteeism.

Schools with large numbers of students in poverty also have higher absenteeism than more affluent schools.

"That's a very different lived experience, being in those two [sets of] schools," said Robert Balfanz, director of Johns Hopkins University's Everyone Graduates Center.

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