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September 19, 2014

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EDUCATION:

Study says cutting class, even occasionally, can have crippling consequences

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Steve Marcus

Clark County School Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, left, attendance officer Javier Morales, senior attendance officer Pam Gunter and Rancho High School principal James Kuzma look for a Rancho High School student at an apartment complex Wednesday, September 18, 2013. They later found out at the apartment office that the family had moved.

Missing even a handful of days of school can cripple student achievement in the classroom, a study released Tuesday found.

Students who miss three days or more in the month before taking National Assessment for Educational Progress tests exhibited skill levels that were one or two years below their peers, researchers from Attendance Works, a national advocacy group, concluded.

The exams are widely considered the nation’s report card and can provide a snapshot for each state, according to the study, titled "Absences Add Up."

The findings held true in Nevada, where 22 percent of students in fourth and eighth grade reported that they missed more than three days in the month leading up to the exam.

In Nevada, fourth-graders who reported absences finished on average 12 points lower in math and reading tests than those who didn’t miss a day of class. Meanwhile, eighth-graders scored 13 and 18 points lower, respectively, for math and reading. According to researchers who analyze NAEP scores, scoring 10 points lower equates to skills one year behind a student's peers.

In state rankings of absentee rates, Nevada was near the middle. Nationwide, one in five students reported missing three or more days of class before the exam. The states with the worst rates included Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wyoming.

The study, which looked at 21 large cities in addition to all 50 states and Department of Defense schools, did not include Las Vegas.

To solve the problem, researchers urged states to develop a definition for chronic absentees to compare rates across schools and districts, track absentee data, involve parents and adopt a system to target students at risk of missing too many days of school.

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