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5/29/2024 House passes McNamara’s Attendance for Success Act to combat chronic school absenteeism

STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, chairman of the House Education Committee, that would require local education agencies to adopt and maintain school attendance policies.

The Attendance for Success Act (2024-H 8190Aaa) would mandate requirements that focus on two key measures. First, it involves closely tracking absenteeism rates using data and implementing a tiered system of support to address student needs. Additionally, it emphasizes improving communication between students, parents, and legal guardians to identify and tackle the root causes of absenteeism and ensure that students receive adequate support through appropriate community-based services and interventions.

“Students who are frequently absent are far more likely to miss important learning opportunities, are less likely to stay engaged, and are of far greater risk of dropping out,” said Representative McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston). “According to the most recent Kids Count Factbook, 39 percent of middle school students and 47 percent of high school students were considered truant by the Department of Education, which defines truancy as 10 or more unexcused absences in a school year. School absenteeism has become a national crisis, with impoverished families suffering the most. This has become such an educational priority that we need to find more creative ways to address the problem.”

The bill defines “absent” as “not in attendance for at least 50% of a school day as defined in this section; provided that, ‘absent’ does not apply to participation in interscholastic extracurricular activities.”

The definition is crucial since current district definitions vary. Standardizing the definition will enable accurate comparisons between schools and districts while still encouraging students to attend school, even if they are late.

 “We need to look at more effective ways to help families overcome the issues that hamper their attendance, so we can come up with solutions to the unique problems that plague individual families,” said Representative McNamara. “Each student has unique reasons for being absent. This would compel school districts to take a deeper look into these reasons and address each student individually.”

The measure now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2024-S 3071) has been introduced by Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903