Chronic Absenteeism in Post Pandemic Academia

Chronic Absenteeism: What We’re Seeing Across the Country and How States and Districts Are Addressing It.  

With the school year starting for many school districts, we know many states and districts are focused on addressing attendance. Since the pandemic, chronic absenteeism has risen across the country. Chronic absenteeism is standardly defined as missing more than 10% of the school year; that’s missing 18 days of school, or almost a month of school, to put that 10% into perspective.  

If students are missing school, they’re missing out on opportunities for learning. Missing so much school creates significant gaps in development for children. For younger children, that includes missing out on developing their reading skills, particularly small group or individualized instruction to build foundational phonics and decoding skills. These young children also miss out on opportunities to work on their fine motor skills, which are essential for long-term skills, such as writing with pens and pencils. Being chronically absent in the early years of education has shown that these students are less likely to be able to read at grade level by the third grade.  

For older students in high school, chronic absenteeism is shown to be strongly correlated with dropping out of school, which has significant long-term effects into adulthood. Students who do not graduate from high school are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system, experience unemployment, and when employed, will earn significantly less than people with at least a high school diploma.  

This increase in chronic absenteeism is both disheartening and alarming. Disheartening because, in the last decade, the US has seen a significant decrease in what’s called the overall status dropout rate, which is defined as percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential (either a diploma or an equivalency credential such as a GED certificate). The overall status dropout rate went from 8.3% in 2010 to 5.2% in 2021. This is alarming because if we’re seeing increases in chronic absenteeism, what will the status dropout rate be ten years from now? Are we going to see these improvements wiped out? And for the students who do drop out, what do their life outcomes look like?  

Alarm bells are sounding across the country regarding chronic absenteeism and I’ve included a few links below to some helpful articles and tool kits to address it.  

There are many things that districts and states can do to identify and address chronic absenteeism. From the eScholar perspective (i.e., the data-focused perspective), looking at trends and patterns in attendance can make a big difference to intervene early and effectively for students at risk of chronic absenteeism. Some things to look at include: 

  1. Frequent Absences: Chronically absent students typically have a high number of absences throughout the school year 
  2. Consistent Tardiness: Chronically absent students may arrive late to school or specific classes regularly. Tardiness can contribute to missed instructional time and disrupt the learning environment for both the student and classmates. 
  3. Skipping Specific Classes: Some students may consistently skip certain classes or subjects they find challenging or uninteresting. As a result, they may attend other classes but be absent for specific periods regularly. 
  4. Absenteeism on Particular Days: Some students might display a pattern of absenteeism on specific days of the week. For example, they may frequently miss school on Mondays or Fridays. 
  5. Long Absence Stretches: Instead of having sporadic absences, chronically absent students may be absent for extended periods without a valid reason. This can be a red flag for deeper issues that need to be addressed. 
  6. Clustered Absences: Chronically absent students might have absences clustered within short timeframes. For instance, they might miss several days in a row or have frequent absences over a few weeks. 
  7. Absences Before or After Holidays: Some students may exhibit a pattern of absences just before or after holidays and breaks, potentially indicating a lack of motivation to attend school during these transition periods. 


      As you can see, this type of attendance data is a lot more granular than just your standard “absent” “present” and “tardy” but it gets into some of the core indicators that may help students earlier. If your district or state is looking to collect and analyze any of this type of attendance data to address chronic absenteeism, contact us directly to start a conversation.  

And finally, below are some links to some of the latest things we’ve read across the county and some helpful toolkits: 

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