A student is chronically absent when he or she misses 10 percent or more school days, or about 18 days per year, for any reason, including excused absences.
"Research proves that students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are far less likely to read proficiently by third-grade," Speck said in a press release. "For every day of school missed, it takes three days to make up what was taught."
By the sixth grade, if a student continues to be chronically absent, then the likelihood of their dropping out increases, he said, adding and referring to the research, "In the ninth grade, chronic absences are a better indicator than test scores of a student's likelihood to graduate from high school."
Speck's comments come at the one-year anniversary of the elementary Truancy Court, a partnership between the Solano County Office of Education, the Solano County District Attorney, the county Superior Court system, and county school district leaders.
Speck has been working with Solano County District Attorney Donald A. du Bain to reduce chronic truancy among elementary school students.
To that end, in the new few weeks SCOE will launch an awareness campaign, School Attendance -- Every Minute Matters: From Awareness to Action, "designed to provide communication resources to schools, engage school communities, and boost student attendance as soon as children enter school," he said.
"In order for students to learn, they need to attend school every day," Speck said. "That's why I am calling on students, parents, and the community to join me in making sure students get to school every day and on time."
The county's six school districts -- Vacaville, Dixon, Travis, Benicia, Fairfield-Suisun and Vallejo -- have pledged to focus on boosting student attendance this school year.
In Truancy Court, a student support specialist from SCOE attends all court proceedings, acts as a liaison between the courts and the schools, provides resources to families, and meets with them regularly to identify barriers that may affect their children's attendance.
In the press release, Judge Robert C. Fracchia, presiding juvenile judge of Truancy Court in Fairfield, said "I am pleasantly surprised at the progress we have made thus far with our truancy intervention. Parents appearing in court are generally responsive to our program, and we have seen marked improvement amongst families with a chronic history of truancy."
He said parents need to understand "that there are real consequences for their failure to ensure their children's attendance in school."
"It is critical to break the cycle of truancy early, as adolescents who are habitually truant are far more likely to end up in our delinquency court down the road," Fracchia pointed out.
The court has been getting good reviews from district superintendents.
It has had an impact on Benicia Unified's attendance review board process, called SARB for short.
"For the first time, parents and students are taking the process seriously," said Michael Gardner, the district's assistant superintendent of human resources. "We are very grateful to District Attorney du Bain for establishing Truancy Court."