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Addressing Chronic Absenteeism

Missing school, regardless of the reason, has important repercussions for a student’s education. With every absence, a child falls behind his classmates and is more likely to struggle academically. But once that student has racked up multiple absences, the chances of ever catching up again are slim.

Tracking the Early Attendance Gap

When a student misses 10 percent or more of the school year for excused or unexcused reasons, he or she is considered chronically absent. But just because absences are excused doesn’t mean they aren’t worrisome. Reports estimate that 5 to 7.5 million students every year are chronically absent and come disproportionately from low-income and minority backgrounds. The common reasons they give for staying home are infinitely more complex than just “skipping school”: unreliable transportation, health and dental problems, fear of conditions violent inside and outside of school and insecure housing are all valid excuses keeping students out of the classroom.

It doesn’t take long before these absences translate to major problems for a child’s future. Even when children are chronically absent early on (i.e. in preschool, kindergarten and 1st grade) they are already less likely to graduate from high school than their peers—a discrepancy known as the Early Attendance Gap. The correlation between early education and high school may be surprising, but it’s real: when students miss chunks of their primary education, they are much less likely to read at grade level by the time they enter third grade, which is considered a proven indicator for determining a child’s academic outlook and his chances of graduating from high school.

Every Student, Every Day

Fortunately, awareness about the perils of chronic absenteeism is spreading. On the heels of Attendance Awareness Month, the Department of Education recently launched an initiative to address chronic absenteeism in conjunction with the White House, the Departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services. Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism brings together communities, states, and nonprofit, faith and philanthropic organizations to bolster efforts to keep kids healthy and accounted for in the classroom.

“It’s common-sense—students have to be in their classrooms to learn, yet too many of our children, and most often our most vulnerable children, are missing almost a month or more of school every year,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We are partnering with communities and providing tools to help all of our young people attend school every day, so they are learning the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, careers, and life.”

Join the Department of Education and Attendance Works, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and United Way on November 12th for Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence. The online session will provide communities and school districts with solutions and strategies towards eliminating the achievement gap, increasing attendance and ending chronic absenteeism, particularly amongst at-risk youth.

Register for This Event