Strategy 1: Monitor Chronic Absence Data

Monitoring chronic absence data is essential to ensuring educators are equipped to support their students. When school starts, data from the prior year can help alert educators to which students might need extra supports to start the year off right. In addition, it’s easy during the course of a busy school year to lose track of how absences are adding up for particular students. It’s difficult enough to notice when you have a class of 30 students. It’s even more difficult to notice how a day here or there adds up when you teach four or five classes a day. Regularly reviewing your class attendance data can help to identify which and how many students have so many absences they require some form of early intervention. As you review, be sure to look at excused as well as unexcused absences. Remember suspensions also count as time missed from classroom instruction.

Students who are likely to need additional support due to poor attendance are those who missed 10 percent or more of the previous school year as well as those who are headed off track in the current year. Examine the degree to which absenteeism is a challenge to help determine the intensity of interventions needed to improve attendance. Students missing 10-19 percent of school (9-17 days in a semester or 18-35 days over the course of a school year) are considered moderately chronically absent and generally can be helped with Tier 2 interventions. Tier 3 supports are often needed to help those who are severely chronically absent — missing more than 20 percent of the school year (18 or more days in a semester or 36 days over the course of a school year).

There are Several Possible Ways to Obtain Your Students’ Attendance Data:
  • Ask your school secretary for the attendance reports. Almost all schools now keep attendance records on an electronic student information system that can provide a variety of reports. Some school systems now offer chronic absence reports alerting educators to how many and which students have missed 10 percent or more of school. Because this is such a recent development, your school support staff may not know of these reports until they look for them or ask the district central office.

  • Look at student report cards from prior years. Many summarize a student’s total absences, both excused and unexcused.

  • If your district does not yet provide chronic absence reports, you can use this Classroom Attendance Calculator to determine whether a student’s absences place him or her in the satisfactory, at-risk or chronic absence categories.

  • Check to see if your district’s student information system flags foster children and youth. Many states have specific notification systems for identifying youth in foster care. If they are flagged, educators can proactively review attendance data for this group of students, because they experience higher rates of absenteeism than their peers. Educators can then partner with the child welfare agency counterparts to provide chronic absenteeism prevention and intervention services for system-involved youth.

If you are working with a large number of chronically absent students and/or have several students with severe levels of absenteeism, consider sharing this information with a social worker, site administrator or community school coordinator (if applicable) to solicit their help and advice about how to address the situation.