Local policy is key to shaping and operationalizing what happens in schools and communities. While states set the broad parameters for accountability, local education agencies in the United States often have broad discretion in shaping and operationalizing what happens in schools and communities. School superintendents and board members, along with their local government leaders and the local community, create the vision for learning and are responsible for the system that supports each student. A system of accountability for student attendance can be established at the local level regardless of state or federal requirements.

School districts have the authority to see that chronic absence data are tracked, publicly reported and addressed. School districts and their community partners, especially city and county officials, can make school attendance an explicit priority and use chronic absence data to implement  interventions and inform the allocation of community resources. 

At the community level, positive conditions for learning must be present to ensure all students have access to an equal opportunity to learn. Systems-level strategies include:  involving students and families, collecting and reporting data, building strategic partnerships across public agencies and community-based partners, providing training and support, and taking a problem-solving, non-punitive approach to attendance improvement. When implemented locally, a systemic approach can result in meaningful and lasting positive change for communities.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath impacted every district and school in the United States. It has impacted communities that struggle with poverty and exacerbated existing inequities. As a result, chronic absenteeism has skyrocketed. We call on local policy makers to support these policy recommendations.


Updated April 2024