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Chronic Absenteeism: A Student Success Indicator under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

March 7th, 2017

Projecting Student Success Under ESSA-02

Good attendance is a strong predictor of student success that K-12 schools should be monitoring to ensure students are on-track to graduate.

When students are absent, for any reason, they lose valuable instruction time, which can hamper academic achievement. Students who miss 10 percent or more of the school year (equal to 18 days, or nearly a month of instruction) are “chronically absent” and at an increased risk of falling behind in school, repeating grades, and dropping out of school.

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires state accountability systems to measure progress toward long-term educational goals based on five indicators. These indicators include:

  • Academic achievement measured via an annual assessment;
  • One additional academic measure (i.e., student growth or graduation rates);
  • One additional choice of academic measure;
  • Increasing English language proficiency of English language learners;
  • One evidence-based measure of student success or school quality.

The first three indicators are holdovers from the previous federal education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the fourth and fifth are new with the ESSA. The final indicator offers states the opportunity to monitor chronic absenteeism as a measure for “student success or school quality.” While its impact on achievement is severe, chronic absenteeism can be a powerful accountability tool for schools.

At the school level, monitoring chronic absenteeism allows for early intervention on the behalf of students at risk of falling behind. At the state and national level, it provides a way to judge school quality. Tracking absenteeism provides an easy way to determine whether students are progressing and on track to graduate (and an opportunity to intervene in time to correct course if they are not). By going beyond Average Daily Attendance (ADA) reporting, schools are able to understand which, when, how often, and most importantly why students are frequently absent and address the deeper issues and causes.

Early intervention to address these issues will help improve student success for Mid South schools and students in the long-term. Students who are socio-emotionally well served by their school and advancing academically are less likely to be chronically absent. These benefits, plus the low cost of monitoring (schools are already required to collect and report chronic absenteeism data), makes chronic absenteeism a natural choice for an ESSA indicator demonstrating progress toward long-term educational goals in the Mid South.

Molly Bashay-04


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