MADISON, Wis. -

A Madison Metropolitan School District report indicates about one-third of black students were chronically absent last year.

District officials said the report reinforces the need to emphasize attendance when it comes to closing the achievement gap, and that begins by reaching out to families.

“You don’t know what really the challenge or the barrier is unless you actually communicate and open up the lines of dialogue,” MMSD Chief of Schools Nancy Hanks said. “Something even as simple as a home visit is a great strategy to try to problem solve around how can we get this kid back in school on a consistent basis.”

The district and the United Way are in their second year of their Here! campaign, which focuses on improving attendance rates of the youngest students so they know how important it is to be in school.