"For the 16 million American children living below the federal poverty line, the start of a new school year should be reason to celebrate. Summer is no vacation when your parents are working multiple jobs or looking for one. Many kids are left to fend for themselves in neighborhoods full of gangs, drugs and despair. Given the hardships at home, poor kids might be expected to have the best attendance records, if only for the promise of a hot meal and an orderly classroom. • But it doesn’t usually work out that way. According to the education researchers Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes at Johns Hopkins, children living in poverty are by far the most likely to be chronically absent from school (which is generally defined as missing at least 10 percent of class days each year). • Amazingly, the federal government does not track absenteeism, but the state numbers are alarming. In Maryland, for example, 31 percent of high school students eligible for the federal lunch program had been chronically absent; for students above the income threshold, the figure was 12 percent. • Thanks to groundbreaking research compiled by Hedy Nai-Lin Chang, the director at Attendance Works, we have ample proof that everything else being equal, chronically absent students have lower G.P.A.s, lower test scores and lower graduation rates than their peers who attend class regularly."