McKee, Infante-Green Announce 256,000+ Fewer Absences so Far this School Year

Published on Thursday, February 15, 2024


PROVIDENCE, RI - Today, Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, and AAA Northeast CEO and Partnership for Rhode Island Chairman John Galvin joined federal, state, municipal, business, community, and school leaders at Rhode Island College ahead of the second meeting of Rhode Island’s Chronic Absenteeism Working Group to announce that absenteeism in Rhode Island has decreased by approximately 22%, accounting for more than 256,000 fewer absences so far this year compared to last. Leaders launched an #AttendanceMattersRI video campaign featuring 23 spotlights of Rhode Islanders from diverse sectors to promote good attendance. The video spotlights were made possible with support from the Partnership for Rhode Island. Additional attendance-focused resources, including newly released robocalls recorded by Governor McKee and Commissioner Infante-Green, are now accessible on the new website.

“Every day, every home, learning matters - and we are continuing to promote good attendance because we know it is a critical factor for student success,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Our children cannot learn if they are not in class, and it is up to each one of us to ensure that they are present, ready to learn and succeed. I thank all our partners across the state who are helping to underscore how important daily school attendance is.”

The launch of the new web page, videos, robocalls and other informational materials aims to boost the #AttendanceMattersRI awareness campaign, as students and families prepare for the February break. In the coming days, RIDE will also place new billboards throughout Rhode Island to inform students and families of the impact of chronic absenteeism. In November 2023, Governor McKee and RIDE called for an all-hands-on-deck effort to improve school attendance and unveiled new attendance dashboards, announced a paid media campaign, and formed a working group tasked with identifying the root causes of chronic absenteeism and developing strategies to reduce absenteeism and improve student attendance.

“Every child in Rhode Island has the potential for greatness, and every day they’re in class brings them a little closer to that potential,” said Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos. “I commend hard work of the education leaders, parents, and students that has resulted in this drastic increase in attendance. Together, we can keep this momentum going for our children!”

“Too many children across our entire state, especially in our low-income and diverse communities, are at risk of being or are already chronically absent," said General Treasurer James A. Diossa. "This is why I am joining the charge, alongside so many fierce advocates, to ensure that our children and families understand the importance of attendance and have the resources to tackle chronic absenteeism. I am proud to be part of this powerful, new video campaign, together we will ensure all students are present in the classroom.” 

Rhode Island defines chronic absenteeism as the percentage of students who miss 10% or more of school days during the year, or about two days per month. School attendance is a powerful predictor of student outcomes, with 2023 assessment data showing that, on average, chronically absent students in Rhode Island performed lower than their non-chronically absent peers by 19.9-26 percentage points. Chronic absenteeism is also linked to increased suspensions and teen substance use, as well as poor health as adults.

“There is no substitute for being in school every day, learning and growing among friends and dedicated teachers,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “Daily school attendance supports greater academic achievement, increases the likelihood of graduation, and opens doors for our children. With the support of leaders from throughout the Ocean State, Rhode Island is leading the way in promoting attendance and ensuring our children are on a path to success in the classroom, career, and beyond.”

According to studies, children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. Chronic absenteeism is also the single strongest predictor of a student dropping out before graduation and limiting their postsecondary and career opportunities. Recognizing the impact of chronic absenteeism on student achievement, workforce development, and the broader economy of the state, the Partnership for Rhode Island, a nonprofit CEO roundtable made up of the Ocean State’s largest employers focused on initiatives in K-12 education, infrastructure, workforce development and business and investment attraction, approached state leaders to lend their support for raising awareness of the impact of chronic absenteeism. The group contributed approximately $50,000 to engage a Rhode Island-based film company to support the launch of the video campaign and created the website which they provided in-kind.

“The Partnership for Rhode Island is proud to support RIDE’s attendance matters campaign. We must invest in our kids; they are the future of Rhode Island, and this starts with all students across Rhode Island showing up to school every day ready to learn,” said John Galvin, CEO of AAA Northeast and Partnership for Rhode Island Chairman. “I am grateful to be a part of a campaign working hard to make a difference to ensure that our kids are in school each day learning, challenging themselves, and discovering what they are passionate about.”

In alignment with the #AttendanceMattersRI campaign, school communities across Rhode Island have developed and deployed several attendance-focused initiatives. Providence, which accounts for more than 113,000 of the 256,000 absences reduced up to this point this year, launched an Attendance Heroes campaign. At the beginning of the year, PPSD distributed magnet attendance calendars for families to track attendance as well as an attendance compact for families. The District has onboarded a director of attendance, behavior interventionists, and social workers to connect with students and families.

“Like the state, attendance continues to be a primary focus for our school District. Providence Public Schools has seen an 18.1% reduction in chronic absenteeism compared to the same time last year. So far this year, the majority of our students have been in school more than 90% of the time, meeting the goal of our Turnaround Action Plan,” said Providence Public School District Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez. “We all must work together to remind our students about the importance of being in school, on time, every day. The District will continue to acknowledge our student attendance Superheroes and encourage our students that ‘It’s Cool to be in School’.”

In Warwick, Norwood Elementary School, a shining example of attendance outreach, saw a nearly 24 percentage-point decrease in the number of students on track to be chronically absent compared to this time last year. Warwick is among the 38 public school districts that signed on to Governor Dan McKee’s Learn365RI compact, committing to shifting learning from the traditional 180 school days to 365 days of learning by leveraging partnerships between municipalities, local education agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) to expand high-quality, extended learning experiences. The District was also awarded grant funding from RIDE in March 2023 to support extended learning opportunities to improve student outcomes across which is supporting ongoing programming.

“Norwood School has created a positive, fun, enriching and engaging learning environment for students with high interest extended day opportunities,” said Norwood Elementary School Principal Dr. Sabrina Antonelli. “Students feel safe, supported, warm and welcomed. It is a true community effort at Norwood School. Students love school and want to be here!”

To provide welcoming and engaging programming, Norwood has established community partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club of Warwick, Special Olympics, Playworks Recess Rocks in RI, and GAMM Theatre and has enlisted support of high school students and local community organization volunteers. Norwood has also appointed a Family Engagement Coordinator who plans fun and engaging activities for students and families, organizes parent workshops and provides assistance with outside support services. The school administrative assistant and support service providers lead outreach strategies, including calls to homes when a student is absent. The school is committed to working to meet all students’ social, emotional, and basic needs with supports, including a food pantry and clothing. Norwood was also a recipient of RIDE’s 21st Century Technology and Equipment Fund and Art Reengages Talent in all Students (ARTS) Initiative which has supported facility upgrades to its library and auditorium, offering students greater access to innovative, beautiful spaces.

#AttendanceMattersRI video features so far include:

  • Governor Dan McKee
  • Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos
  • Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green
  • General Treasurer James Diossa
  • U.S. Senator Jack Reed
  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
  • U.S. Congressman Gabe Amo
  • U.S. Congressman Seth Magaziner
  • Providence Mayor Brett Smiley
  • Newport Mayor Xaykham (Xay) Khamsyvoravong
  • North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi
  • Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera
  • East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva
  • NEARI Executive Director Mary Barden
  • AAA Northeast CEO and Partnership for Rhode Island Chairman John Galvin
  • Rhode Island Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer David Cicilline
  • Rhode Island District Court Associate Judge Christopher Knox Smith
  • Senior Advisor to Governor Dan McKee, Jeremy Chiappetta
  • Pastor and Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Dan McKee, Dr. Chris Abhulime
  • Dentistry Practitioner Dr. Joke Alesh
  • Providence Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez
  • Providence School Board President Erlin Rogel
  • Providence Journal Sports Reporter Eric Reub