Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic Absenteeism - A New Measure of Accountability
Posted on 01/17/2018
Attendance Matters

By Jorge E. Diaz, Superintendent

Schools have always taken student attendance, but have we analyzed the effects of chronic absenteeism on students?  Although attendance has always been important to school districts, the accountability for attendance rates has been limited to the mandate of meeting the 90% attendance rate school-wide.  However, little attention has been given to the effects of chronic absenteeism on students who are absent for more than 10% of school days. 

Chronic Absenteeism is defined as missing school for more than 10% of the possible school days.  For students enrolled for a full-year, this represents missing 18 or more school days for any reason.  While there are absences that may be excused throughout the school year for illness, religious holidays, and other permissible reasons, any student that reaches 18 or more absences is categorized as chronically absent regardless of whether the absence is excused or unexcused. 

New Jersey has required chronic absenteeism rates to be reported on the annual School Performance Report, and further, to be used in factoring school accountability measures.  Schools must fall below the state chronic absenteeism average, which was 10% for the 2016-17 school year.  Not meeting that expectation is not only reflected on the School Performance Report, but an indication of a problem needing serious attention. 

For the 2016-17 school year, both South Amboy schools did not meet the state requirement for the chronic absenteeism indicator.  The chronic absenteeism rate for the Elementary School was 11.3%, and the rate for the Middle High School was 12.8%.   There is a direct correlation between student academic achievement and absenteeism.  Simply put, if students are not in school, they are missing valuable instructional time.  There has been plenty of research regarding student absenteeism.  Researchers and advocates have demonstrated how missing too much school for any reason - excused or unexcused - could help educators predict who could be at risk for dropping out of high school or failing to read by third grade. 

How do we combat chronic absenteeism?  It begins by educating parents on how quickly absences can erode academic performance and encouraging them to convey the importance of attendance to their children starting in the early grades.  As a district, we are generating daily phone calls and attendance letters at certain absence intervals to inform parents of student absences.  Although there are legal remedies schools have to enforce mandatory student attendance, such as court referrals, our schools need a more proactive and partnered approach.  Parents need to communicate with school administrators and counselors to identify the root causes of their child’s absenteeism before it becomes a problem affecting student academic performance.  Please understand that if, after several notifications, students accumulate 10 or more unexcused absences, a court referral will be processed.  Again, we advise you to keep track of your child’s attendance and communicate with the school to address any issues that are preventing your child from coming to school.  Don’t allow the accumulation of absences to put your child at risk of falling behind, retention or loss of credit.  The following are some resources to help address the student chronic absenteeism: