________________________________________ Director, Hedy Chang, hnchang@earthlink.net www.chronicabsence.


Chronic Absence: missing 10% or more of

school over the course of an academic year for any reason. Research shows 10% is associated with declining academic performance. No standard definition exists.

Truancy: refers only to unexcused absences and
is defined by each state, according to NCLB.

Average Daily Attendance: the percent of
enrolled students who attend school each day.


Attending Kindergarten regularly doesn t really matter.

Chronic K absence is associated with lower academic performance in 1st grade for all children, especially reading for Latino children.

Source: National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)

Among poor children, chronic absence in kindergarten predicted lower 5th grade achievement.

Source: National Center for Children In Poverty

Reality: Poor 6th Grade Attendance Predicts Drop Out

Source: Baltimore Education Research Consortium

We don t need to worry about large numbers of students missing school until middle or high school.

Nationwide, 1 out of 10 K & 1st graders are chronically absent. (Source: NCCPP) Chronic early absence can be even higher in some localities. (Across 9 districts, ranged from 5% to 25% of K3 graders). (Source: Present, Engaged & Accounted For)
Chronic Early Absence Across Localities 30.0% 26.7% 25.0% 22.7%

20.0% 17.4% 15.0% 12.9%

13.79% 12.0% 8.6% 6.0% 5.4%



0.0% 1 % 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Locality

Chronic Absence in Baltimore MD

Source: Baltimore Education Research Consortium

Education of all children can be adversely affected when teachers divert attention to meet the needs of chronically absent children. Addressing chronic absence can improve ADA which would increase resources available to all students. Chronic early absence could be a sign to intervene before problems are more entrenched.

Most educators regularly monitor when students are chronically absent.

Schools typically only track data on average daily attendance and truancy (unexcused absence). But both can mask chronic absence. Especially in the early grades, children are not likely to be home without the knowledge of an adult who can call in to say they will be absent.

Even if schools ID truant or chronically absent students, data is rarely used to examine problematic attendance patterns (e.g. by classroom, grade, school, neighborhood or sub-population). Educators may overlook sporadic vs. consecutive absences. Absences/attendance are not always built into longitudinal student data systems. ( Not required by the America Competes Act or NCLB.)

Because families are ultimately responsible for children getting to school every day, schools can t do anything to address chronic absence.

Characteristics of Effective Strategies Partner with community agencies to help parents carry out their responsibility to get children to school.
Make chronic absence a priority, set a target and monitor progress over time. Examine factors contributing to chronic absence, especially from parent perspective Clearly communicate expectations to parents Begin early, ideally in Pre-K Combine universal and targeted strategies. Offer positive supports before punitive action.
Source: Present, Engaged & Accounted For


When chronic absence occurs in the early years, consider the role that schools, families and communities each might play in contributing to and addressing attendance. As children grow older, pay more attention to issues affecting youth as well (e.g. boredom in school, family responsibilities, peer pressure.) Key factors contributing to chronic absence can vary by community. High levels of chronic absence suggest systemic challenges affecting the school or community.


3. 4.



Create attendance data team to regularly review patterns of chronic absence by grade, classroom and subpopulation. Offer attendance incentives school-wide. Educate parents that attendance matters starting in Kindergarten & encourage families to help each other get to school Reach out to chronically absent students & their families & find out barriers to attendance Partner with community resources (i.e. afterschool, preschool and health programs) to promote attendance & address barriers. Include strategies to improve attendance in annual school improvement plan

2. 3.

4. 5.


1. 2.

Track absences electronically. Calculate and publicly report the levels of chronic absence district-wide, by school, grade and sub-groups. Ensure underperforming schools with high levels of chronic absence identify barriers to attendance and address issue in school improvement plans. Include chronic absence (along with ADA & truancy) in data dashboards, school report cards and other forms of electronic communications.



6. 7. 8. 9.

Create incentives for schools and administrators to improve attendance and reduce chronic absence. Invest in professional development around using chronic absence as an early warning sign. Invest in outreach counselors to support attendance work. Encourage community and public agencies to target relevant resources to schools with high chronic absence levels.

1. 2.

Inclusion of absence data in longitudinal student data base. State assistance with generating annual reports on attendance including chronic absence. Use of federal funds (Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants) to pay for the addition of absences to state and local data systems, professional development on responding to early warning signs including chronic absence, formation of school community collaboratives to improve attendance & achievement.


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