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Chronic Absenteeism

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Every Day Counts

Every absence, excused or unexcused, (including suspensions), is a learning opportunity lost and can have significant impacts on a student's success in school and life.  A student who misses 10% or more of their school days, which can mean just two days a month, for any reason, is considered chronically absent.  Chronically absent students are more likely to fall behind academically and less likely to graduate from high school.  Addressing chronic absenteeism and developing good attendance habits is a solvable problem for which we all share responsibility.


Case Study of Chronic Absenteeism

In the 2017 publication, Preventing Missed Opportunity: Taking Collective Action to Confront Chronic Absence, Attendance Works provided compelling evidence that any student absences equivalent to missing 10% or more of school, whether excused, unexcused or due to suspension predicts:

  • lower levels of numeracy and literacy by third grade,
  • class failure in middle school, higher levels of suspension, and
  • higher likelihood of high school dropout and lower rates of college completion.

The impact begins in the early grades where chronic absenteeism effects the most vulnerable children living in poverty. The families do not typically have the financial resources to make up for lost educational opportunities. Chronic absence is missing so much school for any reason that a student is academically at risk. It means missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason - excused, unexcused and suspensions. 

Research reveals that chronically absent students are on the fast track to failure. However, studies show that when districts, schools, communities and policymakers recognize and address factors leading to chronic absenteeism, trends to failure can be reversed.  The report Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success reveals that:

  • Poor attendance in the first month of school can predict chronic absence for the entire year.
  • Absenteeism in kindergarten can affect whether a child develops the grit and perseverance needed to succeed in school.
  • Absenteeism in preschool and kindergarten can influence whether a child will be held back in third grade.
  • Absenteeism in middle and high school can predict dropout rates.
  • Absenteeism influences not just chances for graduating but also for completing college.
  • Improving attendance is an essential strategy for reducing achievement gaps.
  • When students reduce absences, they can make academic gains.