Chronic Absenteeism in Schools

Chronic absenteeism has become a national crisis that requires our attention.

Chronic absence is defined as missing 10% of the school year, or two days a month, for any reason. Irregular attendance puts the student academically and socially at risk.

According to Attendance Works, prior to the pandemic 1 out of 7 students in the United States were chronically absent each year. Today the number is much higher, it was estimated that by the end of the 2021-22 school year, 1 out of 3 students qualified as chronically absent.

Absences have long-term consequences for students.  By third grade, a student who misses school frequently is less likely to read on grade level, and more likely to get suspended in middle school. Students fall behind and face significant challenges year after year, this feeling of “failure” increases the likelihood of eventually dropping out, which usually happens by the time they get to high school.

Schools, families, students, and communities need to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to rebuilding those positive conditions of learning and to overcome barriers to attendance.

How can Educators Help Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

  • Communicate attendance expectations

Schools need to clearly explain to families the importance of attendance for their child’s academic success. Research has shown that families have high hopes for their children, but many of them do not realize that showing up nearly every day to school makes a huge difference. Schools can use their website, social media accounts, school events, face-to-face meetings, and other channels to continuously remind students and families about the importance of attendance.

  • Monitor data

Find out which students are struggling with attendance and pay close attention to those students. A system for tracking daily attendance, tardies, behavior, and school culture data can reveal the underlying causes of chronic absenteeism. Intervene early, do not wait until it is too late to talk to the parents and the student.

  • Listen to your families and students

Get to know your families; what challenges are they facing? What is keeping them from coming to school? Is it disengagement, family and work responsibilities, transportation barriers, health and anxiety issues? It is important to know this information so that interventions are aligned with those causes.

  • Provide support

Some students may need additional support. Schools should have a designated person or team to check on these students frequently, and to help them develop an action plan according to their needs. Offer resources, plan routines, have conversations…anything that the student and his/her family may need to break those barriers.


 Take Action – Attendance Works: Attendance Works has developed a variety of resources and strategies for numerous stakeholders. Check out their list to find out what you can do.

Resources – Attendance Works: The website offers resources for monitoring and addressing chronic absence. Here you will find messages, handouts for families, posters and banners, videos, and incentives.

What can schools do to improve attendance ( This website offers “A Prevention and Intervention Guide for Schools and Districts” that can apply to everyone.