Education can only fulfill its promise as the great equalizer—a force that can overcome differences in privilege and background—when we work to ensure that students are in school every day and receive the supports they need to learn and thrive.
At the same time, we know that many students experience tremendous adversity in their lives—including poverty, health challenges, community violence, and difficult family circumstances—that make it difficult for them to take advantage of the opportunity to learn at school.
Students who are chronically absent—meaning they miss at least 15 days of school in a year—are at serious risk of falling behind in school. In 2015-2016 OVER 6 MILLION students missed 15 or more days of school. That’s 14 percent of the student population—or about 1 in 7 students.
Chronic absenteeism occurs at every grade level but is more prevalent in some grades than others. Chronic absenteeism rates are highest in high school. Other research suggests that students in the early elementary grades also experience high rates of chronic absenteeism. Understanding when students are most at risk will help schools and advocates better target interventions to improve student outcomes.
Research suggests the reasons for chronic absenteeism are as varied as the challenges our students and families face—including poor health, limited transportation, and a lack of safety—which can be particularly acute in disadvantaged communities and areas of poverty. Whatever its causes, chronic absenteeism can be devastating: