In every state, school districts are experiencing chronic absenteeism, but most have programs in place to help boost school attendance, a brief from Attendance Works shows.
Some of those measures include collecting and reporting data about chronic absenteeism and offering multiple modes of instruction, such as in-person and virtual learning during quarantines.
Attendance Works has called chronic absenteeism a “full-scale crisis.” Chronic absenteeism, as defined by the organization, is when a student misses 10% or more of the school year or 18 days over a full school year.
School attendance suffered during the pandemic as students struggled to engage in virtual learning, became sick with COVID-19 or had to take on more family responsibilities. But there are signs of progress, particularly with uniformity within states and districts about how to record and report student attendance, the brief said.
Connecticut, for example, began collecting and publicly releasing monthly data on its education department website to help school systems take action during the pandemic. The California Department of Education publishes a report on absenteeism by type of absence in its interactive data portal. The data can be disaggregated by ethnic group and is available at the school, district, county and state level.
Attendance Works also published a table about states’ attendance data collection policies.
"When data is released publicly, it offers families and community members a chance to review, and if numbers don’t seem realistic, to question the results, which helps improve the quality of the data so that investments in interventions reach the groups needing them most,” said Hedy Chang, Attendance Works executive director and founder, in a statement.
The organization recommends states ensure the collection of accurate school attendance data and that the data be easy to access so school systems can make decisions about resources needed to improve attendance.
Furthermore, Attendance Works advises states to:
Use data to inform recovery. Chronic absenteeism data should identify where the losses in instructional time are taking place so that interventions like tutoring, home visiting and expanded learning can be considered.
Invest in adequate and equitable resources. Use partnerships and funding to improve areas of need, including technology access and student and family well-being.
Implement a multi-tiered system of support. Provide preventative, targeted and intensive supports with the help of a cross section of youth services, such as housing, health and education.
Provide opportunities for engagement. Chronically absent students benefit from whole child approaches that include enrichment activities. The organization said students and families feel meaningfully engaged when "support efforts are tailored to recognize the specific strengths they bring and challenges they face."