Chronic Absence

About Chronic Absence

Chronic absence occurs when children miss 10 percent or more (nearly a month) of school over the course of a year. Unlike truancy, which refers only to unexcused absences, chronic absence includes both excused and unexcused absences. For many students, especially those living in poverty, chronic absence in kindergarten translates into poor academic performance throughout elementary school.

Key Information

  • By sixth grade, poor attendance is a proven factor of high school dropout rates
  • By ninth grade, missing excessive amounts of school can predict dropout probability with more accuracy than eighth grade test scores
  • Afterschool and expanded learning programs can help improve attendance in school, thus improving student achievement and reducing the dropout rate
  • When chronic absence reaches high levels, it affects all students, as teachers must spend extra time reviewing concepts for children who missed the original lesson
  • Educational resources are impacted because state funding is largely determined by average daily attendance, which refers to the percent of enrolled students who attend school each day

Strategies to Reduce Chronic Absence

  • Analyze the trends in attendance at the afterschool and expanded learning level to better understand the context of attendance data and collection in your state
  • Identify barriers to stronger attendance data collection at both the in-school and afterschool level and create an action plan to address these barriers
  • Work with school administration to improve data sharing practices between schools and afterschool programs

General Publications

This brief reviews developmental research and out-of-school time program evaluations.

Network Publications

An issue brief addressing the high costs of dropouts and how investments in quality afterschool programs can provide savings and produce a high rate of return for communities and the state.
It is a challenge to implement a new program within a school, especially if the program is offered after the instructional day.


For-purchase report on participation in out-of-school time programs, drawing on research and evaluation, and providing strategies on how to define, measure, study and increase participation.