Press Release

Who’s In: Chronic Absenteeism and the Every Student Succeeds Act

Contact: Phyllis W. Jordan

For Immediate Release

When Congress rewrote the federal education law in 2015, lawmakers sought to scale back the emphasis on standardized test scores in school accountability. The result was the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires states to include five indicators measuring school performance: four focused on academic achievement, and a fifth, “non-academic” measure of school quality or student success.

In response, a majority of state leaders have adopted chronic student absenteeism as their “fifth indicator.”

In a new report, FutureEd, a nonpartisan think tank at Georgetown University, provides a comprehensive review of the provisions in all 51 state ESSA plans, as well as the results of a fresh analysis of federal chronic absenteeism data. Drawing on this research, we offer a roadmap for leveraging ESSA to keep more students in school and on a path to academic success. Among our findings:

  • 36 states and the District of Columbia are using some form of chronic student absenteeism in their accountability formulas.
  • At least 27 of the states that have included chronic absenteeism use the same definition: missing 10 percent or more of enrolled days.
  • Some states are setting ambitious, and perhaps unrealistically high, attendance goals for schools. In several places, no more than a quarter of the schools would meet expectations.
  • States are giving relatively modest weight to chronic absenteeism in their accountability formulas and, in many cases, combining it with other indicators.
  • The biggest differences in chronic absenteeism rates come not among districts or states, but between schools within the same district. This makes it critically important that superintendents and principals are equipped to deal with excessive absences–whether excused, unexcused or for disciplinary reasons.

Read the full report and a state-by-state breakdown.

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