The role of the federal government is to ensure the right of every child in the United States to a free and high quality public education by protecting their civil rights and by providing resources for those in need. The federal government is also responsible for funding that can even the playing field for all students; collecting and then using data and research to describe the condition of the nations’ schools; to promote improved practice; to inform policy; and, to provide guidance for schools, districts and states that support quality improvement.

Attendance is a leading indicator of a student’s opportunity to learn and is a key metric for measuring whether the government is delivering on its promise. The U.S. Department of Education currently collects and reports chronic absence data through its Ed Facts data collection. The inclusion of the provision for states to adopt a school quality indicator, along with more traditional academic measures for accountability in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), led 36 states and the District of Columbia to adopt chronic absenteeism as one of their multiple measures of accountability.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, chronic absence in U.S. schools has skyrocketed.   Attendance Works has developed policy recommendations to advance making student absenteeism a priority.

Updated April 2024