When children are absent from school, they miss valuable opportunities for academic, social and emotional development. When a child misses ten percent of their school days, typically 18 or more days per year, they’re considered chronically absent. This can be an early warning sign for other struggles in school. Students who are chronically absent are less likely to graduate from high school and 28 percent less likely to enroll in college.
Roughly ten percent of kindergartners are chronically absent, putting them at greater risk of falling behind. Kids who are chronically absent in both preschool and kindergarten are at least three times more likely to repeat a grade.
Low-income students are especially affected by barriers to good attendance such as lack of transportation, poor health or frequent school changes. One study found that low-income kids are 30 percent more likely to be chronically absent than their more affluent peers.
Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland tried one approach to reducing chronic absence by tracking chronically absent students and working collaboratively with their families to create plans to improve their children’s attendance. In one year, rates of chronic absences were cut nearly in half, and overall academic performance at the school increased to its highest level in 14 years.
Pro-Kid® Policy Agenda
California needs to make sure children aren’t missing out on their education by examining new school policies and revising those that result in lost instruction time. Chronic absenteeism should be monitored closely, and schools and communities should use the information to make meaningful changes to improve attendance and accountability.
Chronic absence is a key predictor of students’ future academic performance, so it’s critical for the state, districts and schools to identify kids who are chronically absent and thus at greater risk of struggling academically. With the state’s current tracking system, there is no way to know how many students are chronically absent, who those students are and which schools have the highest rates of chronic absence. The state should replace its current attendance tracking system with one that monitors chronic absence and tracks school-level and student-level attendance. Even with incomplete state data, we can see improvements in districts that are using holistic approaches to chronic absence to improve attendance and student success.