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Chronic Absenteeism Tackled in New Campaign

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As many as 7.5 million American students miss 18 or more days of school each year—some 10 to 15 percent of students, and a new public service campaign launched today is attempting to attack the problem.

This kind of chronic absenteeism can play a role in whether students end up dropping out of school. The campaign launched today, a project of the U.S. Army and the Ad Council, directs viewers to the BoostUp.org website, which contains statistics on dropout rates and quizzes that yield factoids like this rather alarming one: Adults who graduate from high school are eight times less likely to spend time in jail. The Army's 12-year-old "Operation Graduation" initiative, a collaboration with the Ad Council, is all about motivating and encouraging students to graduate from high school.

Specifically, the campaign is targeting parents of 5th through 8th graders, reasoning that regular attendance early on is critical to academic success.

"A day here or a day there may not seem like a lot, but when you add those absences up, there can be dire consequences," said Peggy Conlon, the president and CEO of the Ad Council.

The new public service announcements in English and Spanish ask parents to look at the influence they have over their children's attendance, remind children that every day missed, excused or not, and even in middle school, puts graduation at risk.

Meanwhile, Attendance Works continues to press superintendents to pledge to focus more on the absenteeism problem. (In the District of Columbia, an article in today's Washington Post discusses efforts in that district to address truancy, by the way. More than 40 percent of students at four different high schools in the district missed at least a month of school last year because of unexcused absences, the newspaper reported.)

The organization now has a messaging toolkit for school districts to use to spread their message to almost any group of stakeholders.

In some cities, the group has erected billboards proclaiming that "Missing School Matters."

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