At-risk kids swell Arkansas truancy rate

Thousands of Arkansas children skip too much school to make academic progress each year, according to recent federal data.

At-risk youths struggle more with attendance, experts say — especially children in foster care and those sent to juvenile court for truancy.

In 2015, 46 Arkansas school districts reported that at least 1 in 5 students were “chronically absent,” according to U.S. Department of Education records.

Thirty schools, including Hot Springs High, Jacksonville High and Little Rock’s Hall High, had at least 40 percent chronically-absent — defined as missing at least 15 days in a school year — students that year.

Overall, Arkansas’ 14 percent chronically-absent rate placed the state just below the national average of 16 percent. Maryland topped the list, with more than 29 percent.

Chronic absenteeism is tied to graduation rates — even more so than how many students receive free or reduced-price lunches or hold minority status in certain years, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s analysis of the data.

Continually missing class is also linked to poor reading scores, especially in high school, the newspaper found.

Excessive absences for students, as young as kindergarten, takes away from social-emotional development that helps youths persevere and engage in learning, studies also show.

Read the full Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article.