Advocacy at the federal, state and local level is required to advance equitable access to a high quality public education. Attendance data can equip policy advocates with information that can help measure whether conditions for learning are in place for all students, and resources are distributed equitably. Advocates can motivate key stakeholders to work together to promote a culture of regular school attendance and intervene when chronic absence is a problem. While chronic absence has become a commonly accepted early warning indicator, there are a number of key policies that must be adopted at the local, state and federal level to ensure its utility.

Policies for Early Education Attendance Advocates
  • Track and monitor levels of absence by individual students in pre-kindergarten.

  • Use high levels of early grade chronic absence to inform plans for allocating preschool and early care resources.

  • Encourage early childhood programs to promote good attendance by increasing parent awareness of the importance of attendance and develop the routines for regular on-time attendance.

  • Ensure that early childhood programs have the resources and training to help families overcome barriers to attendance

Policies for K-12 Education Attendance Advocates
  • Advocate for a standard definition of chronic absence: missing 10% or more of school, whether the school is in person, virtual or a blend, and support the public and timely release of data.

  • Track attendance in longitudinal student data systems.

  • Calculate and report on chronic absence by district, school, grade and student subgroup.

  • Establish school and district attendance teams to review chronic absence, in addition to other key attendance data, such as average daily attendance, truancy and satisfactory attendance (missing 5% or less of school), to inform strategies designed to reduce absenteeism.

  • Address improved attendance in school improvement plans.

  • Support the creation of multi-tiered systems that begin with prevention and early intervention.

  • Use the prevalence of chronic absence to identify schools in need of community resources.

  • Use chronic absence data to allocate state resources to address barriers to attendance.

  • Promote effective approaches to reducing student absenteeism, using absentee data to problem solve rather than punish.

  • Adopt effective behavior management that reduces reliance on school suspensions.

  • Adopt, monitor and report expanded metrics for monitoring attendance and engagement.

Advocating for better public policy can take a variety of forms, including building awareness of the importance of chronic absence, influencing policy implementation, seeking regulatory change and advancing legislation. For further insight, read 5 Things for Advocates to Know About Chronic Absenteeism published by Ed Trust.

Please visit our policy recommendations to advance making student absenteeism a priority

Updated May 2024