Shared Accountability

Chronic absence needs to be built into accountability systems used by districts and states to measure progress and identify where additional support is needed to improve student performance. For example, schools should be required to examine the extent to which chronic absence is a problem and to describe how they will improve student attendance, especially among the most vulnerable populations, in school improvement plans.

How Can States Reduce Chronic Absence?

State education leaders have begun mining attendance data to find out how many students and schools are at risk academically and how to turn around absenteeism. This brief describes the steps that states can take to reduce chronic absence including: building public awareness, tracking and publicly reporting chronic absence rates for schools and districts, using attendance as a metric in school improvement efforts, sharing best practices with educators and parents, and enabling interagency efforts among schools, public agencies and community groups.

State Policy

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.

California’s Local Control Funding Formula

Led by Governor Jerry Brown (D) and advocacy organizations such as Children Now, California enacted a historic Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013 that targets considerable resources to high-need students and enables far greater local discretion over the use of funds.

In the absence of state mandated programs, and to ensure that student needs are being met, districts are required to adopt Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP). Advocates in California successfully secured provisions to ensure that chronic absence and suspension/expulsion rates are carefully monitored by districts as part of developing plans and reporting on student engagement and school climate – two of the eight priorities enumerated in the legislation.