How Excessive Absenteeism Affects Student Performance & Progress

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There are a number of young people navigating circumstances that prevent them from being present each day. This could include familial responsibilities, food insecurity, transportation challenges and distance to school. A combination of these barriers can lead to chronic absenteeism.

​Did you or someone you know have perfect attendance in school? When I was younger there was always this award given to the student who had perfect attendance. I recall at my high school graduation, there was an award for a student who did not miss any days in all four years of high school. At that age, I was really impressed by their efforts and agreed that they should have been rewarded for such an accomplishment. Now, after years of working in education, I recognize that this is not a possible reality for many of our students.

There are a number of young people navigating circumstances that prevent them from being present each day. This could include familial responsibilities, food insecurity, transportation challenges and distance to school. A combination of these barriers can lead to chronic absenteeism.

→ Download our playbook to learn how St. Louis Public Schools increased attendance by 10% in one semester with two key school practices.

Chronic absenteeism describes a student missing more than 10% of academic instruction due to unexcused or excused absences. This is a widespread issue impacting young people across grade levels.

According to the Department of Education, about one out of every six students missed three weeks or more of school in 2015-2016. That is about 100 million school days lost. With that many days of missed instruction, it is evident that chronic absenteeism affects student performance and progress. Students cannot succeed academically if they’re missing three weeks of academic content. For students in upper grades, chronic absenteeism can be a barrier to high school graduation and ultimately impacts their opportunities to pursue post-secondary education.

Chronic absenteeism can negatively affect:

  • Reading proficiency
  • Social and emotional development
  • Academic confidence
  • Test scores

The list above gets longer as you consider how the challenges can be compounded over time. Chronic student absenteeism can be even more of an issue if a student has siblings in school. If one student is absent often then the likelihood of the other student being absent is high. If the parent does not receive appropriate support this behavior could continue.

Chronic absenteeism does not only affect individual students but impacts overall school outcomes. Absenteeism negatively affect school-wide scores that in turn impact school funding. Low enrollment could cause a decrease in resources and budget allocation for a school.

Absenteeism can also impact staffing numbers and perhaps course subjects. High rates of absenteeism indirectly impact student culture and student engagement. It is almost impossible to engage students if they are inconsistently present.

A student who is responsible for younger siblings or has other familial responsibilities will not be at school engaging with their peers and could develop differing social skills, not to mention the academic impact of falling behind in their school assignments. No matter the reason for the absence, students who are missing school often begin to experience a number of barriers to academic success.

Chronic absenteeism is a pervasive problem impacting students around the world. This continues to be a challenge for schools but leaders are working to find innovative ways to support and address individual and schoolwide absenteeism issues. School leaders can engage families and communities in order to support their efforts.

Read 8 Ways Parents Can Perfect Their Morning Routines to Prevent Chronic Absenteeism for more information on how families can contribute to the solution. Addressing chronic absenteeism is necessary for school leadership and families. Kickboard can provide tools and resources that support administration with implementing initiatives that supports the students.