Addressing Barriers

Develop Programmatic Responses to Systemic Barriers

If large numbers of students are affected by chronic absence, that suggests some type of systemic barrier or barriers are at play. Identifying the barriers to attendance can indicate the appropriate solutions, whether that involves establishing uniform closets, improving access to health care, launching walking school buses, providing tutoring, offering mentoring, developing morning or afterschool care and other approaches.

Identifying Factors Contributing to Chronic Absence

Once you know whether chronic absence is a problem in your school and for which groups of children, it is important to begin examining what factors might be affecting attendance. This guide discusses how you can use quantitative and qualitative data to inform your understanding. It includes a matrix to help you analyze factors that contribute to chronic absence, as well as what assets might help in addressing the issue. Understanding the Root Causes of Student Absenteeism can help teachers identify the likely causes of absenteeism for a student who is chronically absent in their class.

Addressing Common Challenges

Use data to determine where and how to target resources that can address common challenges of getting to school and build a local culture of attendance. Consider targeting the schools with the highest levels of chronic absence and the community agencies with the strongest relationships there.

Safe Routes to Schools

Some students miss school because of neighborhood violence or dangerous intersections in route to the campus. Schools and communities have started creating. “Walking School Buses” and other approaches to keep kids safe.

Breakfast in the Classroom

Students who eat breakfast at school attend an average 1.5 more days of school every year. When offered in the classroom, breakfast can be an opportunity to bond with the teacher and get kids ready for class.

Afterschool Programs

Research shows that good afterschool programs can improve school-day attendance. Ensure that schools with high chronic absence rates have access to quality programs, and work with the afterschool providers to target at-risk students.


At one Arizona school, the number of students sent to the office during lunch recess dropped from 400 the year before Playworks’ arrival to four the year after.