Editor’s note: This story is part of a package of reports exploring race- and poverty-based achievement gaps at Dayton Public Schools and how they can be bridged. Read our full report here.
Kids don’t learn if they’re not in school, and in Dayton 30.7 percent of the students were chronically absent in 2016-17, meaning they missed 10 percent of the school year or more.
Several studies have shown high absenteeism among both black and white students in Dayton. In the 2016-17 school year, black males had an absenteeism rate of 35 percent, followed by black females at 30 percent, white males at 29 percent and white females at 27 percent. But that order was flipped just a few years before, with white males on top.
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DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli has said transportation is an issue for some students because the district does not have busing to the high schools.
A study by the Montgomery County Educational Service Center in 2016 found that for younger students in Dayton, health issues were the major reason for missing school. Chronic absenteeism is 66 percent more likely for students with diabetes and 39 percent higher for students with ADHD, according to the study, which was done in conjunction with the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.
The report found a close connection between absenteeism and student performance. Every 10 lost instructional days for a sixth-grade student results in a 4.5-percent drop in their math grade, the study determined.
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Among the solutions identified: Address the specific causes of chronic absenteeism and ramp up extracurricular activities.
In high school, students involved in at least one extracurricular activity — such as band, math club or sports — have 36 percent fewer lost instructional days than those not involved in such activities, according to the report.
Music education is an area with a strong community component. A partnership that includes the Discover Classical radio stations, Grismer Tire and Auto, the Dayton Public Schools Foundation and the Dayton Philharmonic Volunteers Association collaborates on an annual drive to collect new and used musical instruments for students who can’t afford them.
Several schools are seeking volunteers to help teach music lessons to kids.
Lolli said all DPS buildings now have music and arts programs.
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