3 Strategies for Reducing Chronic Absenteeism in Schools


Research shows that chronic absenteeism is a primary cause of low academic achievement and a powerful predictor of which students are at a higher risk for dropping out.

Research shows that chronic absenteeism in schools is a primary cause of low academic achievement and a powerful predictor of which students are at a higher risk for dropping out. While it may seem like common sense that students have to be in school to learn, chronic absenteeism is a growing problem in U.S. schools.

According to Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism, the problem is “typically defined as missing at least 10% or more of school days in a year for any reason, excused or unexcused, chronic absenteeism affects as many as 7.5 million kids a year and is a strong predictor of low academic achievement and high school dropout.”

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The New York Times has also reported on the importance of addressing absenteeism early. In her article Stopping Absenteeism at the Age of 5, journalist Rikha Sharma Rani cites, “Poor attendance, especially early on, can delay social and emotional learning — the development of skills like working in teams and resolving conflict that are crucial to succeeding in school — and set a pattern of behavior for future years. It’s also correlated with lower reading and math proficiency in third grade and beyond. These students, 5 and 6 years old, are more likely to struggle academically, be held back, and eventually drop out of high school.”

Not surprisingly, many states are adding chronic absenteeism in schools to their list of ESSA measures. It’s encouraging to see more focus on this discrete problem, but the solutions lie in several interrelated strategies that schools and districts need to undertake.

What works?  Here at Kickboard we have seen many schools turnaround chronic absenteeism by using our mobile app, web platform, and professional development services to simplify attendance tracking and improve communication.  It is critically important for schools to address engaging students in learning and instruction to meet any serious and longstanding attendance goals. Notably, the biggest change agent in attendance is engaging instruction.  Here are the three strategies we recommend to help reduce chronic absenteeism.  

3 strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism in schools and district-wide

1. Nurture a culture of attendance

  • Set a measurable goal for improved attendance.
  • Explain the importance of attendance to the entire school community
  • Communicate your school’s progress toward your attendance and celebrate successes throughout the year.
  • Track daily attendance, tardies, and student engagement in one central, secure location with a tool that helps you can quickly see how these data points impact student behavior.

2. Catch problems early

  • Form an attendance review team to regularly monitor attendance data and communicate with parents about issues as they arise.
  • Designate absences as an indicator in your early warning system.
  • Use data to identify which students are at risk, so you can intervene before isolated absences becomes chronic absenteeism.

3. Create a more positive school culture and a focus on engaging instruction

  • Evaluate and address your students’ engagement in learning — sustainable and significant attendance growth depends on it.  
  • Provide teachers and school leaders with multiple levels of support to help students stay more engaged and act positively.
  • Help students achieve positive social and emotional character development, while reinforcing the behaviors that make up your ideal school culture.
  • Use goal-based incentives and rewards to motivate attendance and positive student behaviors

If you have any questions about how we can help you lower absenteeism and help your students and staff thrive, contact us.