Chronic absenteeism has emerged as a growing concern on local, statewide, and national levels, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is defined as whenever a student misses 15 or more school days throughout the year for any reason including excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. In Santa Cruz County the rate of chronic absenteeism more than doubled from 10.4% in the 2018-19 school year to 27% in 2021-22. The trend was almost identical statewide, with chronic absenteeism increasing from 12.1% to 30% over the same period.
As educators we know that when students miss school, there are far-reaching implications. Students miss out on valuable classroom interactions, vital lessons, and extracurricular activities and in turn experience learning gaps, decreased academic achievement, and social isolation. Chronic absenteeism can translate into students having difficulty learning to read by the third-grade, achieving academically in middle school, and graduating from high school. In fact, research shows that attendance is a predictor of success in so many ways – academically, socially, and with positive mental and behavioral health.
We know that addressing chronic absenteeism will require a collaborative effort between schools, teachers, parents, and the broader community. The resources found here include ready-made materials that administrators, teachers, and family engagement staff can use to deepen your learning, assess your own attendance practices, guide your attendance strategies, plan for year-long attendance activities, and effectively engage families with meaningful messaging.