Understanding Chronic Absenteeism

  • Did you receive a letter from the school regarding your student's chronic absenteeism? At the halfway point in this school year, the end of semester one, your student has 9 or more total absences.

    Dr. Gonsoulin addresses the problem of chronic absenteeism in his weekly video from December 16, 2022. See his message here and particularly at minute 1:10 of the video.

    Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent or greater of the total number of days enrolled during the school year for any reason. It includes both excused, unexcused, out-of-school suspensions, and in-school suspensions that last more than one-half of the school day. For example, a student who has been enrolled for the first 30 school days at the beginning of the school year and has been absent three of those days is chronically absent.

    Chronic Absences include all absences, excused, unexcused and suspensions. AA=Administrator Approved, DE=Doctor's Excuse, OSS=Out of School Suspension, PE=Parent Excuse and UA=Unexcused Absences.


    Exempt from Chronic Absenteeism: SA=School Activity, SP=504/IEP, HB=Homebound, LG=Legal, RO=Religious Observance, EXE=Exemption, FT=Field Trip, ISS=In School Suspension, AP=Alternative Placement.


    Truancy vs. Chronic Absence

    Truancy v Chronic Absence


    Chronic absence is different from truancy (missing too much school without permission) as well as average daily attendance (a school-level measure, not a student- level indicator, for how many students are typically in attendance at school each day).

    Chronic absence and truancy are not interchangeable terms. They describe different aspects of the absenteeism problem and require different approaches. Truancy is a term that generally refers to unexcused absences.

    By monitoring chronic absence, the focus is on the academic consequences of lost instructional time and on preventing absences before students fall behind in school. It is an early indicator that a student may fall behind in the classroom.

    Did You Know?

    Just two days per month can lead to chronic absence.

    10% of a school year = 18 days of absence = two days per month

    Why We May Not Notice Chronic Absence


    Many parents are not aware of how quickly absences add up to academic trouble.



    Why has chronic absence suddenly become a thing? It's not that sudden. Chronic Absence was chosen as an ESSA "Every Student Succeds Act" School Quality or Student Success Indicator.
    Chronic absence is one of the few metrics available to all states that meets or exceeds the rigorous ESSA selection criteria for indicators. The requirements are summarized below:

    ESSA Indicators Must:  
    Be applicable to every student All enrolled students are included in attendance counts; no students are excluded
    Be comparable across a state's school districts States already have protocols that standardize attendance taking and reporting. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has recently required states to track and report a standard measure of chronic absence. As a result, chronic absence rates will be comparable within states and unlike many indicators, across the nation.
    Be valid Test scores are measures of test success which can be strongly or weakly related to subject mastery. Chronic absence measures how much school has been missed, period.
    Be reliable Counting errors aside, taking attendance and computing chronic absence repeatedly will yhield a consistent result.
    Have a proven Impact on Achievement An abundance of studies link chronic absence to academic achievement


    Research has shown that the reasons why students are chronically absent fall into four categories:

    (Attendance Works, 2014)

    Myths and Barriers







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