Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic absence is a measure of how much school a student misses for any reason: unexcused, excused and suspension days. It is a broader measure than truancy, which only tracks unexcused absences.  According to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), any student who is absent a minimum of 10 percent of his or her enrollment period in the current school – for any reason (e.g. illness, suspension, excused or unexcused) – is considered chronically absent.  Also according to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), an absent student is one who misses 50% of the instructional day for any reason, regardless of whether the absence is excused or unexcused.  Starting in the 2017-18 school year, the South Carolina Department of Education will be monitoring Chronic Absenteeism.  
Starting in the early grades, chronic absence levels can reach remarkably high levels. National data suggests one in 10 kindergartners misses a month of school every year. In some districts, it runs as high as one in 4. The rates only get higher by middle and high school when truancy grows worse.
Why Does It Matter?
Research backs up the common sense notion that children will do worse in school if they aren’t in class to learn. An analysis of national sample of chronically absent kindergarten students (those missing 10 percent of school days) revealed lower academic performance when they reach 1st grade. Reading scores for Latino children were most affected. Among poor children, who lack the resources to make up lost time, chronic absence in kindergarten translated into lower 5th grade achievement. By 6th grade, chronic absence begins to predict high school dropout rates, a study of Baltimore students showed. By ninth grade, missing 20 percent of school can better predict of dropout than eighth-grade test scores. Along with behavior problems and failure of core academic courses, poor student attendance is a critical early warning signs of dropout. Low-income children are disproportionately affected by chronic absence in the early grades They are more likely to miss too much school and more likely to fall behind in academics, particularly reading, which is the focus of instruction in the primary grades.