Department of Education: Chronic Absenteeism Spreading

(Photo: Flick, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flick, Creative Commons)

According to new data from the US Department of Education, chronic absenteeism is affecting students in all parts of the country, including students of all races and ethnicities and students with disabilities.

The new data, the first ever to collect such information on a national level, found that over 6 million, or 13% of all students, missed at least 15 days of school during the 2013-14 school year.

In an effort to show the public what a problem chronic absenteeism is, the department has created a new interactive website that shows the attendance epidemic in terms of geography, ethnicity, disability status, and school level.

“Chronic absenteeism is a national problem,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Frequent absences from school can be devastating to a child’s education. Missing school leads to low academic achievement and triggers drop outs. Millions of young people are missing opportunities in postsecondary education, good careers and a chance to experience the American dream.”

In terms of geography, the website discusses the prevalence of chronic absenteeism throughout the country, including a graph showing where the largest percentage of students who miss three or more weeks of school are located.  Findings show more than 22% of American Indian students were chronically absent between 2013 and 2014.  This was closely followed by Pacific Islanders, blacks, students of two or more races, Hispanic-Latinos, whites, and Asians.

Looking at absences by school level, high school students were found to miss the most days of school, as 20% of these students were labeled as chronically absent.  This was followed by middle school students at 12% and elementary students at 10%.

While over 17% of students with disabilities were found to be chronically absent, this was true of 12% of students who did not have disabilities.  However, looking at gender, results were similar with close to 13% of both boys and girls labeled as chronically absent.

The data and website were introduced by King at the Every Student, Every Day National Conference.  The event was the first of its kind to place its focus on chronic absenteeism, looking to offer support to states, local school districts, schools, and communities in their efforts to create effective chronic absenteeism policy and practice.  The event discussed ways that schools can address the root cause of the problem, as well as how to increase the capacity of multi-agency early warning signs in order to ensure students reach the right interventions, programs, and preventative services that can help them.

The new data comes as part of the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which takes a closer look at the current conditions of over 99,500 public schools throughout the nation, which amounts to 99.5% of all public schools.  Data is included for all students from elementary, middle, and high schools, which includes students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are English language learners.

The data is the first in a series of data analyses to be released by the Education Department throughout the summer and fall.  In order to make the information readily available for parents, educators, and policymakers, among others, the entire data file is currently available online at CRDC.ed.gov.