Smart policy and implementation can ensure schools and communities collect, monitor and share attendance data. They also can motivate key stakeholders to work together to promote a culture of regular school attendance and intervene when chronic absence is a problem.

Policymakers at all levels should consider the following provisions whether they are participating in early education or K-12 education.

Policies Targeting Families and Children Before School

  1. Track and monitor levels of absence by individual students in pre-K.
  2. Use high levels of early grade chronic absence to inform plans for allocating preschool & early care resources.
  3. Use early childhood programs to promote good attendance by increasing parent awareness of the importance of attendance, helping families overcome barriers to attendance and develop the routines for regular on-time attendance.
  4. Create incentives for preschools to address poor attendance and tardiness.

Policies Targeting School Children and their Families

  1. Adopt a standard definition of chronic absence: missing 10 percent or more of school days.
  2. Track absences in longitudinal student data systems.
  3. Calculate and report on chronic absence by district, school, grade and sub-group.
  4. Establish school and district attendance teams to review chronic absence as well as other key attendance data including average daily attendance, truancy and good attendance (missing 5% or less of school).
  5. Address improved attendance in school improvement plans.
  6. Use the prevalence of chronic absence to identify schools in need of relevant community resources such as pre-K education, afterschool programs, health care and insurance, food & nutrition, affordable housing, free tax preparation and Earned Income Tax Credit outreach.

Advocating for better public policy can take a variety of forms, including building awareness of the importance of chronic absence, influencing policy implementation, seeking regulatory change and advancing legislation. California advocacy groups recently sponsored a policy forum on chronic absence, which drew about 174 local and state policy makers. Nonprofits and foundations should be aware that most of these forms, aside from advancing legislation, do not constitute lobbying.