Tennessee considers reducing chronic absence essential to its goals of improving educational outcomes across the state. An analysis of the state’s own attendance data shows that absenteeism correlates with lower test scores and higher dropout rates. The analysis also shows chronic absence rates are highest in the early grades and again in high school, and that absenteeism disproportionately affects some student populations. The Tennessee Department of Education reduce chronic absence as it works to improve 4th grade reading levels, increase average scores on the ACT and ensure that every high school graduate has access to community college.
Tennessee made chronic absence the focus of its September 2015 Conditions for Learning Forum. Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang delivered the keynote address at the event, which drew district leaders and educators working with special populations, health, safety, nutrition, extended learning, early childhood and other student and family support areas.