Local policy is key to 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, reported and addressed. School districts and their community partners, especially city and county officials, can make school attendance an explicit priority and decide to use chronic absence data to trigger interventions and inform the allocation of community resources to reduce barriers to attendance.

At the community level, conditions of learning must be present to ensure all students have access to an equal opportunity to learn. When implemented, systems-level strategies, including proactively 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 can result in meaningful and lasting positive change for communities.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every school in the United States. It has hurt communities that struggle with poverty and exacerbated existing inequities, resulting in skyrocketing student absenteeism and increased barriers to learning. We call on local policy makers to support these policy recommendations, adapted for the pandemic, to advance making student absenteeism a priority indicator, especially in this moment of crisis.

For the 2020-2021 school year, we also recommend monitoring four additional key metrics, contact, connectivity, relationships and participation, in addition to chronic absence. All of these metrics will provide local administrators and policymakers with the information needed to understand which students are missing, for the purposes of reengagement, provision of services, intervention and recovery from the pandemic.

Find resources for School District Administrators

The Attendance Awareness Month convening partners call on Superintendents across the country to raise their voices and lead the effort to improve attendance starting in the early grades in your community.

See why Chronic Absence Matters Case Statement for Mayors and City Leaders

The George W. Bush Institute's State of Our Cities Spotlight on Chronic Absenteeism provides data, analysis, and case studies for city leaders, the public, and policymakers on the educational performance of over 100 cities across the country. The spotlight covers chronic absence awareness, data policy and interventions.

In 2012, The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution urging mayors to raise awareness of the pernicious effects of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and engage the community to help parents get children to school regularly.

Updated 12/15/2020