December 7, 2021

High Average Daily Attendance...and a Chronic Absenteeism Crisis

Congratulations! Your average daily attendance rate is 95%. But could there be a chronic absenteeism crisis looming?

The short answer: yes

Attendance Works recently found that even districts with up to 95% average daily attendance rate were still experiencing concerning rates of chronic absenteeism. Some of these districts had up to 30% chronically absent students. How is this possible?

High average daily attendance rates can mask chronic absenteeism. Average daily attendance is the average percentage of students present each day, over the course of the entire school year. Chronic absenteeism is defined by a student missing 10% or more of school days. 

Even when overall average daily attendance rates look high, there can be a chronic absenteeism crisis if a significant percentage of the absences is from the same group of students missing school regularly, as opposed to most students missing a couple of days throughout the year. It’s similar to the way that a high average 8th grade math score can overshadow the students who are struggling and need extra help.

It can be helpful to see a visual representation of the issue. Here’s one network of schools in Connecticut that charted average daily attendance against chronic absenteeism data. 


You’ll note that even when the district reported an ADA rate as high as 94.7%, chronic absenteeism was still at 14.4% 

Why does it matter? Chronic absenteeism is one of the best early warning indicators that a student needs additional support to thrive. Chronic absenteeism is linked to poor outcomes for students, from lower scores on standardized tests, to decreased literacy attainment, increased dropout rates and even increased risk of incarceration. Chronic absenteeism is one of the best early warning indicators that a student needs additional support to thrive.

Schools & districts can take action by monitoring attendance data regularly, identifying which students are missing 10% or more of school days, and moving quickly to provide outreach and support for those students before it becomes a much bigger problem. We invite you to read more about how our partners in Fulton County are leveraging a more nuanced approach to attendance, and to take our district assessment to find the right attendance solution for your district. 

Do you have thoughts on attendance and absenteeism? We want to hear them! Connect with us on Twitter @EveryDayLabs.  

Getting students on track starts with attendance. We can help.