PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island is the seventh-worst in the nation when it comes to the percentage of students who are considered chronically absent.

The study by Attendance Works, an organization committed to improving attendance policy, practice and research, defines chronic absenteeism as missing 15 or more days of school annually.

The Rhode Island absenteeism figure of 21 percent comes from the 2015-16 school year.

Chronic absenteeism can affect a student's ability to read well by the end of third grade. In middle school, it can lead to students failing courses. And in high school, students who often miss school are more likely drop out.

Ken Wagner, Rhode Island's commissioner of education, says the state's own figures show a lower rate of chronic absenteeism but acknowledges the state needs to do more.