absenteeism (CA) has been broadly defined as missing so much school that a
student is academically at risk. More specifically, the US Department of
Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has defined it as missing 15 days or
more for any reason. Hedy Chang at Attendance Works and Robert Balfanz at The
Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University recently examined the
first-ever national data on chronic absenteeism released by the OCR, as well as
data from the US Census Bureau and National Center for Education Statistics.
Their goal was to determine if there were commonalities in patterns of chronic
absenteeism, and if so, what possible solutions might be suggested based on
The resulting research brief shows that CA is
concentrated. Half of America’s chronically absent students can be found in
just 4% of its districts and 12% of its schools. Where there are significant
concentrations of poverty, there are significant amounts of absenteeism,
regardless of whether the concentrations of poverty are in rural, urban, or
suburban areas. The places with the largest numbers of chronically absent
students usually have more than one generation of people living in poverty and
a high African-American population.
discusses how several districts successfully reduced chronic absenteeism by
solving barriers to school attendance including unsafe walks to school,
unreliable transportation, health issues like asthma, and making the schools
welcoming and safe environments. A common pattern in the districts’ successes
was that they all had access to data detailing their schools’ chronic absences.
The authors make several recommendations to ensure that districts, schools, and
families have the chronic-absence data they need. These recommendations
Examine what schools with
low chronic absenteeism rates, despite facing challenges that can be a
barrier to school attendance, are doing to overcome those barriers.
Use data to find indicators
that a student is prone to CA. One such indicator is if a student missed
more than 10% of the prior school year and two days in the first month of
the current school year. Parents and school staff should be alerted.
When students are determined
to be CA, it is important to find out why. Solving these problems is often
most effective using teams of leaders who meet regularly and have the
resources to solve the problems.
Opportunity: Taking Collective Action to Confront Chronic Absence
Works and the Everyone Graduates Center