New report shows low income students miss more school

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COLUMBIA - A new national study shows that frequent absences begin early for many children, and low-income students have lower attendance rates. 

The report from two non-profits, Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign, looked at chronic absenteeism which is missing more than 10 percent of school days. 

It shows that low-income students are more likely to be frequently absent than middle-income and high-income students. It also shows they are less likely to graduate on time. 

Columbia College Education Professor Teresa VanDover said this report is not surprising. She said in her experience as an educator, low-income students face a lot of obstacles trying to get to school. 

"Poverty is pretty all encompassing," VanDover said. "If you are in a family with resources and you oversleep, then your mother will probably take you to school. But if you are dependent on bus transportation and you oversleep, that's a day lost because there is no way to get you there." 

She said sometimes, parents in low-income families are working 2-3 jobs and are unable to be home in the mornings to make sure kids get to school. Sometimes that leaves the burden of looking after younger siblings on older children. As a result, the older children sometimes miss their busses. 

Kathy Steinhoff, a Hickman High School teacher, agreed with VanDover and said she has seen similar situations in her career. 

"Although education is the best weapon against poverty, unfortunately the systems in place that happen with poverty, they work against education," Steinhoff said. "You have students who are very transient, or moving a lot so attending school can be hard."

"You have students whose basic needs are not being met. They come to school hungry when they do come to school. They may not have resources at home, both physically or a parent who is waking them up to catch the bus in the morning or making sure they do their homework at night."

Ultimately, both VanDover and Steinhoff agreed that there is no set solution for this problem, but they also both added that good teachers who show they care and go the extra mile is one of many first steps. 

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