Get More Kids to School More Often

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Kindergartener raising their hand in a classroom.

Removing the barriers that lead to chronic absence

One in ten kindergartners and first graders miss so much school they never catch up. We can change that. 

Get more kids to school, more often.

United Way of Champaign County supports better attendance for all Champaign County kids. 

The more kids are at school, the more opportunities they have to learn. It seems simple, right?

But the real story is more complex. Research shows that there are key attendance milestones students need to reach to be academically successful. Being present for 90 percent of the school year is linked to reading proficiency, skills development and on-time graduation.

Who is Chronically Absent? 

Kids as young as kindergarten can have problems with missing school.

  • Students from families in under-resourced neighborhoods are four times more likely to be chronically absent than their peers
  • 21.1% of students in Illinois are chronically absent
  • 31.7% of students in Illinois who are chronically absent are low-income
  • 22.8% of students in Illinois are chronically truant (miss at least 5% of schools days without a valid excuse)

Why Do Kids Miss School?

When kids miss school, it is not simply that they are too lazy to go or are playing hooky. Children who are chronically absent often want to go to school but can’t because of circumstances in their life that are out of their control.

Some obstacles that stand in the way for kids to get to school are:

  • Chronic health conditions 
  • Homelessness or housing instability
  • Involvement with the juvenile justice system
  • Bullying or unsafe conditions in school
  • Lack of transportation access

What Can We Do?

It's common to think of chronic absenteeism as a problem for schools and families. But the more kids go to school, develop strong skills and graduate the more likely our community will grow and thrive. Kids in school today are the future employees of local businesses and future neighbors on our streets. Helping these students be successful today, means they will be strong contributors to our region tomorrow.  

That’s why United Way of Champaign County teams up with local educators and families to help every student have the greatest chance of going to school every day. Together we minimize the barriers that keep students out of school and build supports that keep them on track. 

Some of the ways we’re working to improve this:

  • EXPLORERS- Afterschool program for Rantoul students providing intentional and purposeful individualized instruction to make up for unfinished learning due to COVID, with focus on discovering the world and STEAM-based projects.
  • Intensive Literacy Homework Assistance Program- Improves literacy and academic achievement for elementary students with academic and/or social/emotional challenges, primarily from Urbana Schools. Incudes direct instruction for students in literacy and math from licensed instructors.
  • iRead-iCount- Grassroots community initiative utilizing a curriculum developed by Unit 4 specialists, using volunteers to work one-on-one with students to improve the reading and math scores of Kindergarteners.

When you give generously to United Way of Champaign County you help make it easier for kids to get to school– and make our community stronger.

Please make a gift today.

Help Our Kids

With your support Champaign County kids can get to school more often and achieve academically.

1Chang, Hedy; Romero, Mariajose, Present, Engaged and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, National Center for Children in Poverty: NY: NY, September 2008 via
2Attendance in Early Elementary Grades: Association with Student Characteristics, School Readiness and Third Grade Outcomes, Applied Survey Research. May 2011 via
3U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice, Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism, Washington, D.C., 2015.

Kids in a classroom reading a book with their teacher.