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School of Education Researchers Publish Study on Chronic Absenteeism in US

School of Education researchers Robert Balfanz and Vince Byrnes of the Center for Social Organization of Schools recently published the results of their finding on school absenteeism titled Chronic Absenteeism: Summarizing What We Know From Nationally Available Data. As reported in the New York Times, up to 15 percent of US students are chronically absent from school and doing long term damage to their academic progress.

According to the report, chronic absenteeism is not the same as truancy or average daily attendance – the attendance rate schools use for state report cards and federal accountability. Chronic absenteeism means missing 10 percent of a school year for any reason. A school can have average daily attendance of 90 percent and still have 40 percent of its students chronically absent, because on different days, different students make up that 90 percent.

Limited data is available from only six states address this issue: Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon and Rhode Island. How these states measure chronic absenteeism, however, differs by number of days and by whether or not data include transfer students. Such limited data produce only an educated guess at the size of the nation’s attendance challenge: A national rate of 10 percent chronic absenteeism seems conservative and it could be as high as 15 percent, meaning that 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent. 

The Times report notes that many studies have linked frequent absence to low academic achievement and high dropout rates; recent studies of children in New York, Chicago and other cities suggest that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do. Poor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school. Click here to read the full report.