In the United States, there is just one publicly funded youth opportunity program that is universally available: the K-12 public school system. And for children who are poor, have special needs, or struggle academically, schools provide additional essential supports and services, such as access to educational materials, nutritious meals, and basic health services. They also provide youth opportunities to make friends and to get to know college-educated, employed adults—their teachers.
Regular school attendance is critical; in fact, without it, youth are very unlikely to graduate from high school, escape poverty, and stay on course for a productive future. For these reasons, school attendance is a bellwether for a city's future.
This paper, the third in OSI-Baltimore's Student Attendance series, is intended to provide communities, particularly cities, with strategies and policies that will increase the number of students in school each day. As in the first two papers, Baltimore is used as an example to highlight both the problem and possible solutions to frequent school absence.