State education policy is especially important because federal law often relies upon states to specify how key concepts are defined and generally carried out. For attendance, states determine the age of compulsory education, how truancy is defined and addressed and whether attendance (in the form of average daily attendance or membership count) is used to allocate funding. State guidance, support and policy can promote action at scale across school districts. Affecting state policy is very doable, especially if key stakeholders can work together to push for improvements.
For details on individual states, go to the states tab.
- States are beginning to track chronic absence, but set different definitions for measuring it. See the Monitoring Chronic Absence fact sheet from the Data Quality Campaign.
- At least 31 states produce early warning reports on student data, many of them including attendance as a key indicator. See the Data Quality Campaign fact sheet.
- States applying for waivers from No Child Left Behind can include chronic absence rates among the multiple measures of a school’s success. Read our brief: Accountable for Absenteeism.
- The Education Commission of the States prepared this report comparing truancy policies among the states.
- The Education Commission of the States prepared this report on compulsory education ages in all 50 states.
- Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign released this report in September 2015: Mapping the Early Attendance Gap. This brief encourages states to dig deep into their attendance data and determine the who, what, when, where and why of their chronic absence problem.
- Conduct statewide analyses of chronic rates and patterns.
- Publish reports that show chronic absence data in state school districts. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT includes the data in its annual Fact Book.
- Arrange briefs and presentations for policy makers to explain the importance of the problem and to discuss policy solutions
- Use internal publications and reach out to media to explain chronic absence.
Influencing Policy Implementation
- Grant Applications: Ensure that state applications for federal education grants include chronic absence as a key component.
- School Success Measures: Federal law requires each state to track the annual progress of every school, but leaves it to states to determine how that progress is measured. Push for policymakers to use rates of attendance and chronic absence, as well as standardized test scores, to measure a school’s improvement. (Georgia, for example, offers attendance—defined as having 15 percent or fewer students missing 15 or more days or school–as an optional measure of Adequate Yearly Progress for elementary and middle schools) . Results appear in Georgia’s annual report on AYP. The NCLB waiver process allows additional latitude in determining metrics.
- Fiscal Incentives: Structure state funding to provide fiscal incentives to schools and districts that improve attendance.
Pushing for Regulatory Change
- Data Bases: Federal law requires states to set up a longitudinal data base tracking each student’s test scores through their school careers. Encourage state officials to include data on regular attendance and chronic absence, plus total days enrolled.
- Annual Reports: State education departments or other agencies often collect some sort of attendance data from every school district. This can occur as part of overall state education data collection, as well as efforts to monitor truancy and adherence to state compulsory education law. Find out if state regulations ensure attendance data is being tracked and, if so, whether such information is then used to analyze and report levels of chronic absence and regular attendance. If it is not tracked, then educate policymakers about how they can adopt regulations to ensure this important data is included and examined.
Maryland: In Maryland, the state department of education has since 1991 required schools to report on the percentage of students who miss 20 days or more of school. This data is then made available on-line.
Policy Brief: Attendance Works created this brief highlighting Maryland statewide data.
California: In CA, the state compulsory education laws established State Attendance Review Boards at the local, county and state levels. In general, SARBs have focused on addressing challenges facing students who are truant. However, after hearing about the importance of reducing chronic absence from a presentation by Attendance Works, the state board has been developing new guidelines that would strongly encourage local boards to consider voluntarily adding chronic absence to their annual reports. The extent to which local SARBs review and use chronic absence data will also be considered when the state board selects the winners of its annual model SARB recognition program. Learn more here.
Policy Brief: Attendance Works created this brief highlighting data from some California school districts.
On May 19, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson hosted a policy forum on chronic absence with the California Absence and Attendance Partnership.