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State Officials Say School Absentee Numbers Are Too High

Kids monument at Roundhouse
Kevin Meerschaert
Kids monument at Roundhouse

State officials say New Mexico’s school attendance numbers are dismal and a lot more needs to be done to get kids back in class.

According to a report presented to the Legislative Education Study Committee over a one-third of students are considered chronically absent, meaning they have missed at least 10-percent of school time or 18-days, over three weeks of the school year.

LESC Senior Policy Analyst Jessica Hathaway told lawmakers attendance is a fundamental issue regarding the successful education of grade school students.

“Every single day a student misses school, represents a lost opportunity for students to learn, for educators to provide instruction and guidance and for students to simply be in the school environment as part of their learning and development,” she said. “Being present at school is really paramount in ensuring our schools can meet their ultimate promise of preparing students for college, career and civic life.”       

Additional research from Attendance Works, a research project of the non-profit organization Community Initiatives shows chronic abscess affect all students because teachers are forced to adjust the content to help those in the classroom who may have missed instruction time.

During a recent LESC meeting, lawmakers said improving attendance numbers in New Mexico’s schools must be a top priority in next year’s 30-day session.

Valencia County Representative Tanya Mirabal Moya, who is a high school science teacher, says a good chunk of her students are unmotivated and it’s very hard as an educator to get them to care about their education and their future.   

In a report presented to lawmakers by the organization Future Ed, barriers, like transportation, health and housing are major factors in school absenteeism, along with schools needing to be a safe, welcoming place for students and families, as well as students connecting to teachers, peers, classrooms, and activities.

Kevin Meerschaert comes to Santa Fe from Jacksonville, Florida where he spent the past 20 years covering politics, government and pretty much everything else.