Utah’s journey to reduce chronic absence illustrates how interest that begins with one sector—in this case, the afterschool community—can expand to a range of key stakeholders and ultimately spur statewide awareness and interest in reducing chronic absence.

REL West released this 19-minute video to help schools and districts understand that chronic absenteeism is a problem they can address. Educators at three Utah schools —Guadalupe School, South Hills Middle School, and Highland High School— share how they have boosted attendance through:

  • Building a schoolwide culture of good attendance,
  • Using data to identify and monitor at-risk students, and
  • Personalizing outreach and support to these students.

The video has a brief discussion guide and links to resources available here.


Mapping the Gap: Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Charting A Course for School Success, released by Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign in September 2015, encourages states to dig deep into their attendance data and determine the who, what, when, where and why of their chronic absence problem. Read the in-depth state profiles for California, Rhode Island, and Utah.

Voices for Utah Children: In 2014, the statewide policy and advocate group released a brief detailing how policies affecting parents and children can influence school attendance

University of Utah Education Policy Center: In 2012, researchers released a brief to highlight their important findings on chronic absence and its effects in Utah. The study of five years of attendance data emphasizes the need for early identification of students who are chronically absent, and identified chronic absenteeism as a key predictor of dropouts as early as the eighth grade.

  • Attendance Awareness Month 2013: Governor Gary R. Herbert produced a public service announcement and issued a proclamation that he continues to re-issue annually.

  • Chronic Absence Forum 2013: The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) asked the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) to help organize a forum on chronic absence as part of the REL’s support to Utah on dropout prevention. This effort also involved the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities.

  • Chronic Absence Forum 2014: The USOE brought together key partners at a conference for policymakers to increase knowledge and identify who could advance the work through state- and district-level policies and practices as well as community partnerships.ith.

Local Work

Even before the statewide research was published, several local districts began using their own data to examine if chronic absence was a problem and to work with partners to find solutions.

  • Salt Lake City: Superintendent McKell Withers and his team quickly discovered that seemingly good average daily attendance (93-95 percent) was masking high levels of chronic absence, especially in some schools. School administrators made attendance a priority and built in real-time data tools to identify students before they became chronically absent.

  • Ogden: Then-Superintendent (and now chief state school officer) Brad Smith and his team partnered with the United Way of Northern Utah to analyze data and share the implications with an array of community stakeholders, ranging from local service providers to religious leaders.

  • Granite: As part of advancing a collective approach to community problem-solving, the United Way of Salt Lake helped Granite analyze its data and offer professional development to school staff.