- California's new accountability system gathers and publishes data on chronic absenteeism in schools as one of its success metrics under both the Every Student Succeeds Act and the state's Local Control Funding Formula, and chronic absenteeism rates may begin appearing this fall on district dashboards, EdSource reports.
- This new approach has required many districts in the state to pay closer attention to root factors that lead to absenteeism, which EdSource notes can be highly personal issues ranging from housing problems to health conditions.
- The state's 30 largest districts collectively average an 11.5% chronic absentee rate, just above the state's average, and the numbers skew higher in districts with a larger proportion of low-income students.
California has been working to address chronic absenteeism for several years now, with Sen. Kamala Harris drawing particular attention to the issue during her time as the state's attorney general, due to its impact on student outcomes. Alongside California, a number of others have prioritized the issue — particularly in their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Students are typically defined as "chronically absent" if they have missed at least 10% of school days, unexcused or otherwise.
Some districts have approached the issue by offering incentives like class parties, uniform-free days and special ceremonies honoring high attendance, but getting to issues at the core of absenteeism has often required additional ingenuity and understanding. For instance, one principal in St. Louis discovered that laundry concerns resulted in absences among some lower-income students who were unable to wash their clothing regularly. To solve the problem, he worked with Whirlpool to make washers and dryers readily available to families at the school. Ultimately, moving the needle will likely require a mix of creative reward-based incentives and carefully crafted solutions to individual families' personal issues that may impact their child's attendance.