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Reducing Chronic Student Absence – A Leading Indicator for Planning, Action & Monitoring Success. April 26, 2011 _______________________________________ In collaboration with Oakland Unified School District

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Reducing Chronic Student Absence –

A Leading Indicator for Planning, Action & Monitoring Success

April 26, 2011


In collaboration with Oakland Unified School District

Contacts: Hedy Chang (, Steve Spiker (, Jean Wing (

what is chronic absence
What is Chronic Absence?
  • Refers to missing 10% or more of school in an academic year for any reason—excused or unexcused. It is based on research.
  • Different from truancy. Defined in CA as absent from school without a valid excuse for 3 full days or tardy or absent more than 30-minutes during the school day on three occasions in one school year.
  • Different from chronic truancy - missing 10% of school due to unexcused absences.


poor attendance when 90 a
Poor Attendance: When 90% ≠ A

Student Attendance Rate


(=> 10% absence)


(<10% but > 5% absence)



(=<5% absence)

Emergency: => 20% absence

myths to dispel
Myths to Dispel

#1: Attendance in Kindergarten doesn’t really matter.

#2: Missing school isn’t a big problem until middle or high school.

#3: Most educators monitor chronic absence.

#4: Because attendance is a family responsibility, we cannot do anything to address chronic absence.

chronic k absence can predict lower 5 th grade achievement for poor students
Among poor children, chronic absence in kindergarten predicted lower 5th grade achievement.Chronic K absence can predict lower 5th grade achievement for poor students

Source: ECLS-K data analyzed by National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)

Note: Average academic performance reflects results of direct cognitive assessments developed & conducted specifically for this national study

chronic early absence esp challenging for poor children
Chronic early absence esp. challenging for poor children
  • Poor children are 4 X more likely to be chronically absent in K than their highest income peers. (Romero & Lee 2007)
  • The negative impact of absences on literacy is 75% larger for low-income children whose families often lack resources to make up for time lost on task.(Ready 2010 )
  • Only 17% of low-income children in the United States read proficiently by 4th grade. (Annie E. Casey Foundation 2010)



Chronically absent 6th

graders have lower graduation rates.

Dropout Rates by Sixth Grade Attendance

(Baltimore City Public Schools, 1990-00 Sixth Grade Cohort)









Source: Baltimore Education Research Consortium SY 2009-2010

by 9 th grade attendance can predict graduation better than test scores
By 9th Grade, Attendance Can Predict Graduation Better than Test Scores


On Time Graduation Correlation to 9th Grade Attendance

Chronic Absence

Source: Allensworth & Easton, What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools,

Consortium on Chicago School Research at U of C, July 2007

new york city schools

Chronic absence

can reach high levels

New York City Schools


A 407 alert is issued when student misses 10 consecutive days or 20 days over a 40 day period. The 407 alert misses more sporadic absences which chronic absence captures.

Source: Nauer K et al, Strengthening Schools by Strengthening Families, Center for New York City Affair,s New School, Oct 2008

most do not monitor chronic absence
Most Do Not Monitor Chronic Absence

Most schools only track average daily attendance and truancy. Both can mask chronic absence.

most do not monitor chronic absence1
Most Do Not Monitor Chronic Absence
  • Data rarely used to examine problematic attendance patterns (e.g. by classroom, grade, school, neighborhood or sub-population.
  • Individual student attendance is not required by current federal laws (e.g. NCLB, RTT).
  • CA is one of 5 states who does not include attendance in its longitudinal student data base.
schools communities can make a difference
Partner with community agencies to help parents get their children to school.

Make chronic absence a priority, set attendance targets and monitor progress.

Learn about the major factors contributing to chronic absence by examining data and drawing upon student and parent perspectives

Clearly communicate expectations to parents

Begin early, ideally in Pre-K

Combine universal and targeted strategies

Offer positive supports before punitive action.

Schools + Communities CAN Make a Difference



Improving attendance needs

3-tiered approach to student support

Students who are chronically

absent & habitually truant


of a school’s




This level targets:

Optimal distribution:

Students at-risk for

poor attendance

and/or with rising

absence rates


of a school’s



Initiatives and Programs

All Students

in the school


of a school’s


improving attendance takes an integrated approach

A 3-tiered Approach

  • Universal Attendance Supports
  • Safe and supportive school environment
  • Inviting and engaging classroom environment
  • Intentional family involvement and participation
  • Accurate taking of roll every day in a caring manner
  • Rapid parent contact for unexplained absences (including truancy notification).
  • Incentives for good and improved attendance
  • Access to school-based health supports
  • Collaboration with afterschool programs and early childhood programs to build a culture of attendance
  • School plan & budget reflects attendance priorities
  • Individual Assessments and Intervention
  • Refer chronically absent/ truant students for intervention (includes SART & if needed, SARB)
  • Identify and remove barriers
  • Provide on-going support
  • Recovery Strategies
  • Interagency Staffing
  • Case management and wrap-around services
  • Referral as last resort for court -based
  • intervention
Improving attendance takes an integrated approach

Adapted from Baltimore Student Attendance Work Group & Scott Perry, Attendance Audit, Oregon

tailored approaches are most effective


Tailored Approaches are Most Effective
  • When chronic absence occurs in the early years, consider the role that schools, families and communities each might play in contributing to and addressing attendance.
  • As children grow older, pay more attention to issues affecting youth as well (e.g. boredom in school, family responsibilities, peer pressure.)
  • Key factors contributing to chronic absence can vary by community.
  • High levels of chronic absence suggest systemic challenges affecting the school or community.
  • Data sharing agreement with OUSD - 11 years of data
  • Records aggregated to schools and census tract
  • Caution for partial enrollments
  • Combined aggregated attendance with school performance indicators
chronic absence is a significant problem
Chronic Absence is A Significant Problem

14.3% (nearly 1 in 7) are chronically absent

If the 5,421 students chronically absent in 09/10 had each attended 6 more days, OUSD would have received more than $1,147,000 in additional ADA.


African American and

Latino Students Most Affected


Levels Increase with Age

for Special Education Students and English Language Learners

more than 10 of students are chronically absent in majority of schools
More than 10% of students are chronically absent in majority of schools

Chronic Absences Levels for Oakland Schools 2009-10

chronic absence is affected by community conditions
Chronic absence is affected by community conditions

High correlations are found with:

  • Foreclosures
  • Poverty
  • Single Parenthood

Association with health indicators (infant mortality, diabetes, hospitalization for asthma) to be explored.



Progress To Date:

Responding to Chronic Absence

  • Chronic absence data for district and schools is produced weekly.
  • Chronic absence data is currently used as a leading indicator, not just a lagging indicator.
  • Data is being used to identify promising practice schools to document which have low-levels of chronic absence despite serving large numbers of low-income students
  • Professional Development will take place re: attendance and chronic absenteeism for principals within regional networks.
  • OUSD is partnering with Oakland Housing Authority to promote improved attendance.
how can the city and district partner to reduce chronic absence
How Can the City and District partner to reduce chronic absence?
  • Jointly monitor chronic absence data
  • Make student attendance a community priority
  • Nurture a culture of attendance via public education campaign, rewarding good & improved attendance, & leveraging investment in afterschool & early childhood education.
how could the city and district partner to reduce chronic absence
How could the City and District partner to reduce chronic absence?
  • Identify and address barriers to school attendance
  • Advocate for stronger policies and public investment
key components of bloomberg s nyc campaign
Key Components of Bloomberg’s NYC Campaign
  • Interagency task force
  • Celebrity Wake Up Calls & PSAs
  • 25 Pilot Schools
    • Principal data dashboard
    • Weekly attendance review teams
    • Success mentors (working w/15 -20 students)
    • Attendance Incentives & School Wide Events
    • Collaboration with health dept, homeless shelters and faith-based organizations
in summary
In Summary:

Increased Student Absences are:

  • An early warning sign of potential drop-outs
  • Predictive of academic failure
  • A flag for student disengagement and struggling schools
  • Costly for each school and surrounding community.

Measures of Attendance are:

  • Available
  • Easily understood
  • Predictor of failure in school
  • A potentially powerful shared outcome that can facilitate collaboration