Here's a question for you: Say there are 180 days in the school year. Take away ten due to absence. What does that equal?
"Ten days. Ten days they become chronic."
Just missing ten days, which is easy if your child is sick a couple of times, can equal chronic absenteeism. Missing too much school, and in the eyes of Fresno Unified, 10 days early one is too many.
Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hansen says, "If you miss more than ten days of school in kindergarten and first grade, the chances of you reading at grade level by grade three drop dramatically."
Third grade. An important year in a child's education. Their reading ability in third grade is an indicator of future academic success.
"His hypoth.. Hypothesis.. Hypofisis... It's hard to say isn't it.. Hypothesis.. Hypothesis.. There you go."
"I have kids in my class that can read really fluently.. They sound like they're on the news themselves and then I have kids that stumble over very easy words.. And it often makes me think why are they still stumbling at this point?"
Sean Montgomery teaches third grade at Fresno's Yokomi Elementary. He knows the importance of grade level reading. And how chronic absence is a problem for every lesson.
"Let's say it's five days at a time and then four days at a time, that could be a whole unit of study in math that they've missed."
Montgomery teaches 29 third graders. He says two to three are chronically absent or tardy. Some missing more than 20 days. And catching up in class is tough even for the brightest kids.
"The child has potential but potential is not going to be reached if you are not here."
Nationally, one in ten kindergarten and first grade students misses a month of school, and by middle and high school, the absence rates are even higher. A student who is behind and already struggling in third grade, has a greater chance of becoming a drop-out. And with Fresno County's drop out rate at over 23%, combating the problem early on is key.
"There may be an important reason for a student to miss a day of school on that day, but being in school is an important reason for the rest of their life."
Even in the primary grades, from kindergarten on. The school day offers far more than cutting paper, and learning letters and numbers.
"Any time a child can learn skills and master them, it's going to make the next grade easier for them. And why wouldn't we want our kids to have it easier rather than harder."