Rising Tide of Chronic Absence Challenges Schools

New data from the U.S. Department of Education show that an unprecedented wave of chronic absenteeism has spread across the country, according to an analysis by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.

The analysis of chronic absence data for the 2021–22 school year reveals that two-thirds (66%) of enrolled students attended a school with high or extreme levels of chronic absence. This means at least one of five students in their school was missing almost four weeks throughout the school year.

This analysis includes a brief discussion of early data from the 2022–23 school year.

Not only is teaching and learning more challenging when large numbers of students are frequently missing class, such elevated levels of chronic absence can easily overwhelm a school’s capacity to respond.

This data is a call to action for all of us—at the state, district, school and community levels—to work together, avoid blame and instead partner with students and families to address the issues that keep them from showing up every day.

Fortunately, work on developing solutions has been under way for more than a decade, resulting in many evidence-based interventions that can be tailored at the local level.

“Turning back this surge in chronic absenteeism must be a national, state, district, school and community priority, because it is affecting the success of efforts to help students recover and thrive as the pandemic recedes,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. Working together, we must avoid blame and instead partner with students and families to address the issues that keep them from showing up every day,” Chang said.

“Our analysis shows that a wave of high levels of chronic absenteeism has spread to many more schools and districts across the U.S.,” said Robert Balfanz, director of JHU's Everyone Graduates Center.

“Such high numbers of chronically absent students are beyond the capacity of a single school social worker or counselor to address. The good news is that we don’t have to start from scratch, we can build upon what has been learned about effective responses to chronic absenteeism over the past decade or more,” Balfanz said.

All Hands on Deck: Today’s Chronic Absenteeism Requires A Comprehensive District Response and Strategy. Click here.