According to Attendance Works and the Child & Family Policy Center, chronic absence is hidden by school attendance statistics, even when average daily attendance appears relatively high. Their research found that schools with average daily attendance rates higher than 97 percent rarely have a problem with chronic absence; schools with rates between 93 and 97 percent need to analyze their data to determine whether chronic absence is a significant problem; and schools with rates of 93 percent or below are almost certainly dealing with high concentrations of absenteeism.
Although teachers take roll daily, that data is often not used to monitor whether or not the school has a chronic absence issue. With the focus on taking average daily attendance, attendance issues often go unnoticed because of the high percentages of average daily attendance.
For example, even in a school of 200 students with 95 percent average daily attendance, 30 percent (or 60) of the students could be missing nearly a month of school (i.e. chronically absent) over the course of the school year. It all depends whether absences are due to most students missing a few days or excessive absences among a small but still significant minority of students.
School districts also typically track and monitor truancy, or unexcused absences that are associated with students deliberately missing school without an adult’s permission. Most importantly, truancy figures miss chronic absence, especially among young children who do not ordinarily stay home without the knowledge of an adult who can call in an excuse. The difference between truancy and chronic absence can be seen in the graphic below:
In 2016-2017, Sangamon County had an average daily attendance of 95%. However, there were still approximately 3,208 students county-wide that were considered chronically truant and no state-wide measurement for chronically absent students. In order to combat chronic absenteeism and bring Sangamon County’s average daily attendance to 97% or above, schools need access to more and better data and for our entire community, families and community members alike, to work together to support the general educational success of our community’s most precious resource: our children.