WAMU has a depressing story about the factors researchers say predict who’s going to drop out of high school—and the signs are there for kids as young as third graders. It’s the ABCs: Attendance, Behavior, and Course Performance. Attendance is the biggie, since, as kids fall behind in their classwork, they simply stop caring about school:

“Those are alarm bells in the system that for years and years and years have gone ignored,” says John Bridgeland, who heads the public policy firm Civic Enterprises and has done a significant amount of research on dropouts.

Students’ attendance can be a teacher’s biggest challenge. Because if children aren’t in school, they don’t learn and eventually fall so far behind, they get discouraged and drop out. Nearly 12,000 or 20 percent of students attending public schools in D.C. had more than two weeks of unexcused absences last year.

Many children don’t come to school because they have to deal with a “constellation of stressors,” often beginning at home, according to Amoretta Morris, who is in charge of student attendance for D.C. Public Schools. The problem often snowballs from there.

“Very rarely do you have a student who goes from perfect attendance to dropping out of school,” she says. “There’s this process of disengagement.”

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