Attendance Works champions local, state and federal policies that promote taking daily attendance and using multiple measures, including chronic absence, to trigger support for students and families, and to inform program and policy decisions.
These policies should recognize that absenteeism is a leading indicator as well as a cause of educational inequity. Research shows the clear benefits of regular school attendance, and the high costs related to absenteeism, including students not being able to read by third grade and dropping out of high school.
Covid-19 has laid bare and deepened the lack of equal educational opportunity, particularly for Black, Hispanic, Native American and students living in low-income communities. A major national study predicts that if in-person instruction does not resume until January 2021, Black students may fall behind academically by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and students living in poverty by more than a year. Chronic absenteeism exacerbates equity gaps by causing students vulnerable to educational inequities to fall even further behind.
While showing up does not guarantee learning, a student who misses class clearly cannot benefit from the instructional opportunity. If a large number of students miss class, it is an indication of challenges that require systemic solutions. Data on attendance and absenteeism are one of the few data points currently available to assess a student's access to education.
Given the pandemic, measuring attendance and noticing which students are facing difficulties in showing up for learning is more essential than ever. Such policies are paramount to reducing the adverse and disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on students and families and ensuring a positive, long-term recovery.