The National Plan to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

October 13, 2015 | Written By:

Last week, we were honored to stand with the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro when they launchedEvery Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism—which aims to reduce chronic absenteeism by 10 percent every year.

Our connection to this important national initiative is grounded in the fact that health is both a cause and solution to chronic absenteeism. Chronic health issues—such as asthma, dental issues and mental health—are a leading cause for missed school days.

Every Student, Every Day focuses on the 5 to 7.5 million students who are chronically absent each year. Defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days throughout the school year for any reason—excused or unexcused—chronic absenteeism puts students at heightened risk of falling behind their peers and dropping out of school. As part of this national initiative, the Administration announced a number of tools and partnerships to help eliminate chronic absenteeism.

The Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism offers information, suggested action steps and lists of existing tools and resources for individuals, leaders and systems. The toolkit includes specific action steps for youth, parents, city mayors, juvenile justice and law enforcement, among others.

On Nov. 12, the U.S. Department of Education, Attendance Works, Everybody Graduates Center and United Way Worldwide are hosting a virtual summit on chronic absenteeism. This online summit will outline key steps that states, districts and communities can take to improve student achievement by monitoring and reducing chronic absence. It will feature two national experts on absenteeism: Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Balfanz and Attendance Works director Hedy Chang. The summit will explain the importance of schools looking beyond average daily attendance rates to identify students who are missing so much school that they are falling behind academically; share strategies that work for improving attendance and achievement, including positive messaging, family outreach, student incentives and mentoring programs; and highlight the importance of engaging community partners, such as health providers and criminal justice agencies.

In the spring, the ED will release the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes the first-ever school-level data on all students across the nation who missed at least 15 days of school for any reason. This will shed new light on the scope of the chronic absenteeism problem including where it is most prevalent and whom it most affects.

Following the release of that data, the ED will host a national summit for states, school districts and communities that are committed to implementing proven strategies to combat chronic absenteeism. Those strategies include implementing early warning prevention and identification systems and cross-sector interventions and supports that connect students to meaningful education, health, housing, juvenile justice and other critical services.

We applaud the Administration for taking on this important national issue, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other partners to address the health issues that contribute to chronic absenteeism in our nation’s schools. Please visit the Department of Education’s website to read about all of the aspects of the initiative.

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