The Latest on Chronic Absence in Arizona

April 17, 2024

State Strategies

Recent data from the Arizona Department of Education showed that, statewide, chronic absence decreased in 2023 but remains twice as high as pre-pandemic rates. Across Arizona, schools and districts are working to boost attendance, and partners in Read On Arizona are working at the state level to support their efforts with evidence-based resources and recommendations focused on preventing school absences and re-engaging students and families.

A student is considered chronically absent when they miss 10% or more of a school’s calendar year for any reason, excused or unexcused. That’s about 18 days in a typical school year, or just two days a month.

Regular attendance is crucial for the success of our students, especially in the early grades, when they’re developing the literacy skills they need to read proficiently by the end of third grade, a strong predictor of future of academic success. Students who fall behind early are much more likely to drop out of school and much less likely to develop the skills needed for career success.

Chronic Absence Task Force

Last year, Read On Arizona convened the Arizona Chronic Absence Task Force, bringing together leaders from the Governor's office, school districts, state agencies, community partners, legislative staff, and education stakeholders to work with national experts from Attendance Works.

The task force has worked to explore the root causes of chronic absence, establish common definitions and metrics for measuring attendance, and identify effective, data-informed strategies.

The result of the group’s work will be a comprehensive chronic absence resource guide for schools and districts as well as a set of legislative policy recommendations. Both will be available this fall.

Professional Learning Opportunities

Read On Arizona also utilized critical relief dollars from ADE, through Project CALL, to contract with Attendance Works to provide a training series for Arizona educators and stakeholders to learn effective, evidence-based strategies to promote consistent attendance.

To date, more than 350 participants from more than 100 public and charter schools and early childhood programs across the state have participated in the training. School teams have included principals, teachers, parent/family liaisons, student liaisons, district superintendents, school counselors, and attendance clerks.

Read On Arizona is also participating in an upcoming national peer learning series on promoting attendance in kindergarten and the early grades from U.S. Department of Education’s Student Engagement and Attendance Center.

In June, Read On Arizona’s Lori Masseur will join representatives from Attendance Works and the Helios Education Foundation for a presentation on chronic absence to the Arizona School Boards Association’s Summer Leadership Institute.

Bookmarks: Chronic Absence

Arizona's Kids Are Missing School Far More Than They Were Before COVID-19

Arizona Republic | April 12, 2024

The percentage of students who were chronically absent was far higher last school year than it was during the years leading up to the pandemic. "It's been a really steady drumbeat of work to not make it seem as if school is optional," said Seth Aleshire, the chief academic officer of the Phoenix Elementary School District.

Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere

The New York Times | March 29, 2024

Nationwide, increases in chronic absence have occurred in districts big and small, and across income and race. Trends suggest that “something fundamental has shifted in American childhood and the culture of school, in ways that may be long lasting.”

Students’ Chronic Absenteeism Is a Growing Issue

In Business Greater Phoenix | March 2024

Chronic absenteeism is a workforce development and economic issue, writes Dawn Gerundo of Valley of the Sun United Way, putting our students at risk of failing classes, dropping out, and minimizing their career opportunities. Finding solutions requires coordinated effort between Arizona schools, business leaders, legislators, and families.

Foundations for Attendance: Examining How Funders Can Help Reduce Chronic Absence

Campaign for Grade Level Reading | April 16, 2024

WEBINAR: Panelists shared ways they are taking action to promote everyday student attendance and reduce troubling surges in chronic absenteeism. “We use public policy, research and data, community investments and communications all together to leverage systemic change," said Janice Palmer of Helios Education Foundation, "and I think the work of chronic absenteeism is a great example to see this work in action.”

Parents Are Not Fully Aware of, or Concerned About, Their Children’s School Attendance

Brookings | March 26, 2024

Parents can play a critical role in substantially reducing absenteeism, but in a recent survey of those with children at risk of being chronically absent, less than half reported being concerned about it.

Learning Loss Win-Win: High-Impact Tutoring Boosts Attendance

The74 | March 1, 2024

Preliminary results from a new study show that high-dosage tutoring during regular school hours had the added benefit of improving attendance, especially among those who were chronically absent in the prior school year; their attendance improved by at least five days. “Part of why kids don’t show up is because they don’t feel successful in school,” said Hedy Chang, executive of Attendance Works.