Chronic Absence

Chronic Absenteeism Is Linked to Poor Grades and Dropout

Nationally, one in ten kindergarten and first grade students misses a full month of school in a single year, and the rates of chronic absenteeism in middle and high schools are even higher.1 Unlike truancy rates, which distinguish between excused and unexcused absences, chronic absence rates reflect all absences. Looking at all absences is important because, regardless of why they are missing school, students do not learn when they are not in class. Research shows that chronic absenteeism increases a student’s risk of academic failure and is an early predictor of high school dropout.2 It is essential that schools and districts track absenteeism on a student by student basis, as school-wide attendance statistics can mask individual trends.

To learn more, visit the Attendance Works website or view their new infographic!

School-Based Health Centers Can Help Schools Reduce Absence

Because chronic absenteeism is the result of complex mental, physical, and family health issues, school-based health centers (SBHCs) can play an integral part in strategically addressing attendance problems. In collaboration with educators, health center staff can identify and support students with unmet health needs so they can re-engage with school. Doing so improves student health and increases school attendance.3

At Elsa Widenmann Elementary School in Vallejo City Unified School District, educators saw an opportunity to reduce absenteeism by establishing a school-based health center. As former principal MaBella Gonzales explains, “Our concern was attendance, and how many non-urgent health needs were preventing children from coming to school. As we worked with our collaborative partners [to establish our new school-based health center] we wanted to create a hub for our school community where information and resources were available to support the health, well-being and positive lifestyles of students and families.”

Resources for Practice

For tools to help you address chronic absenteeism, see Chronic Absence Resources.

To read about SBHCs that are addressing chronic absenteeism, see Chronic Absence Case Studies.

To learn more about how SBHCs can maximize their impact on student achievement, including by addressing chronic absenteeism, see our Ready, Set, Success! toolkit.

(1) Attendance Works:
(2) Attendance Works:
(3)Lewallen, T., Hunt, H., Potts-Datema, W., Zaza, S., Giles, W. (2015). “The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole
Child Model: A New Approach for Improving Educational Attainment and Healthy Development for Students.” Journal of School Health. 85(11): 735.