The first national analysis of preschool absences has found that 12 percent of children in Head Start programs are chronically absent, a surprising fact usually overlooked by those interested in Head Start. The researchers also found that those children who miss 10 percent or more of the school year have fewer gains in academics, specifically math and literacy, than their peers who attend the same Head Start more regularly.
Many researchers see high-quality preschool programs as a way to reduce long-term disparities in education. And many large investments are being made in early childhood programs such as Head Start, the largest federally funded preschool program in the United States. Therefore, understanding the role of attendance in preschool programs, and encouraging parents to ensure that children attend, may be important to maximizing benefits.
“Unlike in K-12 schooling, attendance is not mandated by law for preschoolers, so programs like Head Start do not always track it,” says Kelly Purtell, co-author of the study and CCEC Faculty Associate.
The study article is published in the journal Child Development. Read more.