Chronic Absenteeism

Showing up for school has a huge impact on student's academic success starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school. Even as children grow older and more independent, families and communities play a key role in making sure students get to school safely every day. We all understand that regular attendance is so important for success in school and in life.

Chronic absence - missing 10% or more of school days due to absence for any reason - excused, unexcused absences, and suspensions can lead to third graders unable to master reading, sixth graders failing subjects, and ninth graders dropping out of high school. 



Teaching Attendance Curriculum

Attendance Works has developed a research-based, educational program designed to equip school leaders, teachers, and school support staff with an understanding of chronic absenteeism.

Through the use of 40-minute video courses, reflections, and opportunities to apply concepts, the Teaching Attendance curriculum provides guidance and resources needed to reduce chronic absences in grades K-12.

Click here to learn more.

Students with Disabilities and Chronic Absenteeism FAQs

Special circumstances may exist for students with significant medical conditions. To learn more about Chronic Absenteeism as it relates to students with disabilities, see the Students with Disabilities and Chronic Absenteeism FAQs

What is Chronic Absenteeism?

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or about 18 days in a normal 180 day school year, or 2 days a month. 

Chronic absence is often overlooked because educators have traditionally only examined truancy (unexcused absences) and average daily attendance (how many students show up every day).


Truancy versus Chronic Absenteeism


Chronic Absenteeism Calendar

For Frequently Asked Questions about Oklahoma's policies on Chronic Absenteeism, you can read here.


Why Attendance Matters? 

Below, are three PowerPoint presentations that show the importance of regular attendance.

Please feel free to download and use these materials for your own presentations. If you reuse the slides in your own format, please credit Attendance Works as the source. 

Overview Presentation: Reducing Chronic Absence: What Will it Take? 

An overview of why it matters and key ingredients for improving student attendance. 


Presentation to Practitioners: Reducing Chronic Absence: What Will it Take?

An overview with a few data slides included and a couple examples of best practices.


Presentation for Families: Bringing Attendance Home

Engaging parents and students in reducing chronic absence.

What Can I Do?

As with most large-scale issues, it is important to begin with a conversation. Below, are some important points to consider before beginning your conversations, questions to ask ourselves and each other, ways to engage, and ideas on where to begin:

For Parents:

  • Make sure your children (and yourself) are getting to bed at a reasonable time. 
  • Reach out to friends or family for help with carpooling or wake-up calls. 
  • Let the school know about safety, transportation, or other barriers you and/or your child are facing with getting to school every day and ask for help.
  • Let your child's teacher know how they can help your child keep up with their classwork at home while dealing with major life events such as illness or a loss in the family. 
  • Plan family vacations around normal school breaks. Make sure travel plans allow enough time for kids to finish class before the break and be rested before school starts up again.
  • Model kind and appropriate behavior at home and talk to your children about being kind to others so they aren't creating a safety barrier for another child to get to school.
  • Talk to your children about the importance of education.

To Students:

  • School gets harder when you stay home too much. It is tempting to stay home again when you feel behind in class. 
  • Talk to an adult you trust to help you if you don't feel safe or if you feel like you are falling behind and need some extra help.
  • Plan some homework time with friends if you're behind to help you get caught up so you feel confident about returning to class.
  • Call or text your friends with bed-time reminders and wake-up calls.
  • Get involved with bully-prevention programs at school, church, or your community. Help be a part of the solution and make sure everyone feels safe going to school.
  • If you're feeling overwhelmed and aren't sure how to handle a problem at school, talk to an adult you trust and ask them for help.

Within Schools:

  • Be non-judgemental and avoid using labels for students or their families. Reach out to them and ask what difficulties they are dealing with and how you can help.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes, families are dealing with serious life difficulties that prevent their child from being in class. Chronic absenteeism isn't just about getting kids in class but making sure they don't fall behind. How can you create a plan and use your resources to continue educational support for that student at home?
  • Be connected. Get to know other professionals in town so you can introduce families who are interested in getting more support.
  • Consider school start times. If it is very early and truancy is an issue, consider adjusting the time school begins and ends.
  • Reconsider discipline policies. Suspensions count as missed instructional time. 
  • Reevaluate the curriculum and school climate. Engaging curricula, friendly front office staff, supportive teachers, and approachable principals make students enjoy coming to school!
  • Start a district-wide bully-prevention program. Help make sure all students feel safe coming to school!
  • Be open and welcoming to community organizations who want to help or have services they can offer.
  • Reduce the amount of homework so students are better able to balance after school activities while also getting to bed on time.

To the Community:

  • Most doctors' offices operate during school hours which add to missed instructional time for routine check-ups. Consider adjusting business hours to allow for more evening, early morning, weekend, and holiday appointments.
  • Consider a city-wide bully-prevention program to help create a safer and more positive environment for all students.
  • Reach out to the school and offer to help with mentoring for students who are at risk.
  • Local police can help with monitoring or talking to students at bus stops to intervene with on-going conflicts or bullies.


The following is a three-tiered approach to addressing chronic absenteeism. The most effective and lowest cost approaches are at the top. These are where most of our time and resources should be focused so we can avoid having to resort to the bottom, third-tier approaches. 

Tool Kits

For resources on how to get started and best practices, check out our Tool Kit page.


Last updated on February 12, 2019