(INDIANAPOLIS) -- More than 55,000 students in Indiana are chronically absent, and it is having a detrimental effect later in life, according to a groundbreaking study by the Center for Evaluation and Education Police at Indiana University.
Students that miss two days of school a month, or 18 days a year, are more than twice as likely to become dropouts, the study showed.
The groups behind the study have put up 20 billboards all around Indianapolis, hoping to spread the message to parents that dropouts are more likely to end up as teen mothers, in jail, on drugs and unemployed.
The Missing School Matters campaign is pushing to change how Indiana calculates absences. Currently, Indiana schools only keep track of average daily attendance and truancy.
"Every day of school missed matters," said Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, director of Attendance Works. "Out-of-school suspension and expulsions don't count toward attendance, which is unusual."
Excused absences are also not counted. The study indicated that the reason behind the absence didn't matter and the effects were critical -- a profound drop-off in graduation and standardized testing scores.
"Whether the student's on vacation with parents going out of town, have parental permission to miss school, those days matter, too," said Terry Spradlin, of the IU Evaluation and Education Center.
The groups behind the study want state legislators to write in language that defines chronic absenteeism in Indiana as missing 18 days a year or more for any reason.
They say identifying the problem early -- can get students the help they need to keep them in class.
Along with the billboards, 10,000 magnets will be passed out to parents at back-to-school events in the coming weeks.
Leaders behind the push hope to introduce policy recommendations, which include changing the definition of chronic absenteeism and truancy during the next legislative session, which begins in January. Organizers hope the recommendations would be implemented the school year after next.
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