Chronic absence is a measure of how much school a student misses for any reason. It is a broader measure than truancy, which only tracks unexcused absences. Starting in the early grades, the percentage of students missing 10 percent of the school year can reach remarkably high levels, and these early absences can rob students of the time they need to develop literacy skills. Tracking chronic absence is a data-driven solution that can be built into federal grant applications and can be an integral part of parent engagement programs. It can be a goal for a funder’s investment—or a measure of a grantee’s success. Chronic absence can also tip off communities to families and neighborhoods in need of further support, since poor school attendance can be an early warning sign of challenging social, economic, and health conditions.
By the Numbers
One in 10 kindergarten students miss nearly a month of school every year. In some districts, it runs as high as 1 in 3.
Kindergarteners who miss 10 percent of school days have lower academic performance when they reach first grade. Reading scores for Latino children were most seriously affected.
Among children from low-income families, who lack the resources to make up lost time, chronic absence in kindergarten translated into lower fifth grade achievement.
Who can help
Attendance Works is a national and state-level initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success. Its website offers resources and toolkits for those who want to help ensure that every school in every state not only tracks chronic absence data for its individual students but also intervenes to help those children and schools.
The GLR Campaign and Attendance Works are partnering on a Call to Action for Superintendents. Join us now!