For far too long, poor attendance was considered a problem only in middle and high schools. We began debunking this myth with the publication of Present, Engaged and Accounted For in 2008. And, now we're delighted to share new research that further deepens our understanding of the impact and prevalence of chronic early absence. A new report from Baltimore, and ongoing research in Chicago, shed light on the effects of preschool and kindergarten absences. In Oregon, an analysis we commissioned reveals chronic absence is a significant problem throughout the state and has prompted changes in the way the state looks at data. And in Tulsa, Head Start and preschool programs are using their data to intervene and document the impact of better preschool attendance.

Hedy Chang

Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes awareness of the important role that school attendance plays in achieving academic success. It aims to ensure that every school in every state not only tracks chronic absence data for its individual students but also partners with families and community agencies to help those children.

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PreK, K Absences Foretell Trouble Ahead; Head Start Students Shine

Poor attendance in preschool and kindergarten can predict chronic absenteeism and faltering academic performance in later grades, according to an analysis released this week by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium. The study followed three cohorts of Baltimore students over time to assess the effects of chronic absence, defined as missing more than one-ninth of school days.

Researchers also looked at the type of early education experience children had. Students who had attended Head Start showed the highest attendance rates in kindergarten and the lowest level of chronic absence in first through third grades. Those who stayed home and didn't start school until kindergarten had the worst outcomes for attendance, retention and standardized tests, a finding that could have implications beyond Maryland.

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Tulsa Uses Data, Parent Engagement to Reduce Chronic Absence

A Tulsa nonprofit has reduced the number of chronically absent students by 25 percent in its Head Start and early learning programs by using data to help programs monitor what is happening with overall attendance and determine which students and families need intervention.

The Community Action Project Tulsa County, which serves about 2,000 students from low-income families, took a deep dive into attendance in 2009 and found that 64 percent of the students were missing 10 percent of school days. The research also showed that students who attended regularly demonstrated more growth in literacy skills.

To reduce absences, providers began intensive outreach to parents, emphasizing the importance of attendance at initial enrollment, program orientation, and in home visits, as well as through the creation of attendance plans for children missing too much school.

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Oregon Attendance Analysis Gets the State's Attention

A statewide analysis that found nearly a quarter of Oregon students were chronically absent has now prompted state leaders to include the attendance measure in a high-profile accountability report. The governor's office has added chronic absence as an indicator in the newly created achievement compacts that districts will make with the state. Specifically, districts must report the percentage of sixth grade students missing 18 days or more, or 10 percent of the school year.

The Oregon analysis, released in February, not only measured chronic absence rates, but also tracked students over time, correlating absences with poor attendance and weak academic performance in later grades.

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Attendance Works has developed this handout explaining the importance of early education

Pledge Cards

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has developed these pledge cards for parents, which include a promise to ensure good attendance.

Taking Attendance: Volunteers, data part of helping bridge gap for chronically absent students, Providence Journal, March 8, 2012

Oregon students show startling rate of absenteeism, The Oregonian, Feb, 3, 2012

Tackling Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, National Civic Review, Winter 2011

Let's Focus on Chronic Absenteeism Education Week, January 4, 2012


For more information contact: or
Attendance Works Director
Hedy Chang at

Attendance Works would like to express its deep appreciation to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for investing in our development and launch as a national initiative. In addition, we thank The San Francisco Foundation and The California Endowment for supporting our campaign in California.