The recently submitted state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) show that chronic absence is gaining traction as an indicator of school quality and student success. As this chart shows, the majority—14 out of the 17 officially submitted ESSA plans—includes some variant of chronic absence as an accountability indicator and many other states with plans in preparation seem likely to follow suit.
Attendance Works is excited by the opportunity that the increased focus on chronic absence provides because it has the potential to increase student achievement substantially. We now know that excessive student absences are a proven, widespread, and consequential problem in American schools. National data from the Office for Civil Rights shows that at least 6.8 million public school students missed 15 or more days of school in 2013-14, and it affects at least 89 percent of the nation’s school districts. Several high quality research studies show that the impact of chronic absence leads to lower achievement, disengagement and often dropout. Yet chronic absence can be reversed and, when attendance improves, student achievement is likely to improve.