New report: 10 to 15 percent of students chronically absent

You can't learn if you are not at school. A new report says millions of kids are chronically absent.  (AJC file)

You can't learn if you are not at school. A new report says millions of kids are chronically absent. (AJC file)

We have discussed the issue of chronic absenteeism before, but there is a new report out today that gives dimension to the extent of the problem.

(Please note that the Get Schooled blog preceded the Get Schooled Foundation cited in this release,  but there is no relationship between the two.)

Absenteeism is a parent problem. And it speaks to larger problems when a parent doesn’t see the importance of getting their children to school. I have talked to parents who allow their children stay home because they are tired,  sometimes from staying up the night before to watch a playoff game or  some other TV event. I also know parents who become enraged at the teacher or the school and keep their child home.

And there are the hapless parents who oversleep and don’t get themselves or their kids out of bed on time. A friend worked as a court-assigned mentor to a family where the 9-year-old girl had missed 20 days of school. She said the mother let the child stay up to midnight or later watching TV and then both slept the next day to 10 or 11. The mother did not have a car so the only way she could transport her daughter to school was MARTA, and she just wasn’t willing to make the effort so the girl ended up missing the entire day.

I also interviewed a truancy officer from a rural district who said that transportation played a role there as well; the child was late, missed the bus and the parent either didn’t have a working car to drive the child to school or had to go to work in the opposite direction and didn’t have the time.

(Kudos to Georgia for being one of only six states that reports chronic absenteeism.)

Here is the release on a study on the extent of the absenteeism problem. (Also, the Get Schooled Foundation has an online attendance calculator you ought to check out.)

Chronic absenteeism in American schools is a largely unnoticed and unmeasured problem affecting the educational outcomes of millions of students and undermining critical school improvement efforts, according to The Importance of Being in School, a new report by Johns Hopkins University School of Education researcher Dr. Robert Balfanz.

Conducted with support from the Get Schooled Foundation, the report will be released today simultaneously at a congressional briefing and at the Education Writers Association’s national conference.

The report found only a handful of states measure and report on chronic absenteeism, which the report defines as missing at least 10 percent of school days in a given year, or about 18 days. It estimates that 10 to 15 percent of students nationwide are chronically absent. That adds up to 5 million to 7.5 million students who miss enough school to be at severe risk of dropping out or failing to graduate from high school.

“As a mom and former preschool teacher, I know how devastating chronic absenteeism is to the ability of students to learn and grow,” said Washington Senator Patty Murray, a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “This important research shines a bright light on this problem in our schools and it makes it clear that we all need to do more to make sure students make it into the classroom so they have the best chance to succeed.”

The data problem is structural and runs from the school to the state to the federal level. At the school level, chronic absenteeism is largely masked by daily attendance rates. A school can report a 90 percent average daily attendance rate and have 40 percent of students chronically absent, because on different days different students make up the 90 percent. Schools know that students are missing but don’t look at the data by student to show individual absenteeism rates.

“Because we don’t measure or monitor the problem, we generally don’t act on it,” said Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins. “Left untreated, the problem will likely worsen achievement gaps between rich districts and poor districts and curtail the positive effects of promising current and future reforms.”

The findings are sobering:

•Students who are chronically absent in one year will likely be so in subsequent years and may miss more than half a year of school over four or five years.

•Urban schools often have chronic absentee rates as high as one third of students, while poor rural areas are in the 25 percent range.

•While the problem affects youth of all backgrounds, children in poverty are more likely to be chronically absent. In Maryland, chronic absentee rates for poor students were more than 30 percent, compared to less than 12 percent for students from more affluent families.

•Chronically absent students tended to be concentrated in a relatively small number of schools. In Florida, 52 percent of chronically absent students were in just 15 percent of schools.

•In some school districts, kindergarten absenteeism rates are nearly as high as those in high school.

The magnitude of the problem is likely understated as Balfanz and his researchers could find chronic absenteeism reported for only six states: Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon and Rhode Island. Several states, including California and New York, do not even collect the individual data needed to calculate chronic absenteeism.

The impact of these missed days is dramatic – students are less likely to score well on achievement tests and less likely to graduate. Students who miss 10 percent of school days on average score in the 30th percentile on standardized reading and math tests, compared to those with zero absences, scoring in the 50th percentile.

Looking at data from multiple states and school districts, the researchers found that consistently high chronic absenteeism was the strongest predictor of dropping out of high school, stronger even than course failures, suspension or test scores. Data from Georgia showed a very strong relationship between attendance in grades 8-10 and graduation. There was as much as a 50 percentage-point difference in graduation rates for students who missed five or fewer days compared to those who missed 15 or more days.

These findings have been extrapolated into a user-friendly attendance calculator that allows users to see a personalized view of the impact of missed days on the likelihood of graduating and on math and reading achievement tests.

“Dr. Balfanz’s research shows that we must address the attendance problem if we are going to have the kind of broader school improvement we want and our students deserve,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of Get Schooled. “The good news is that many of us are working in innovative ways to get the simple message of missing matters to parents and students.”

The report did find signs of hope, including examples of schools and districts making substantial improvements in addressing absenteeism and attendance problems. Among others, Get Schooled’s Attendance Challenge, a friendly national competition designed to motivate students to attend school, has seen strong results. Most recently, Lincoln High School (Warren, MI), bested other Detroit-area high schools when it raised its attendance by more than 8 percent over three months.

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement is piloting strategies in 50 schools – and adding another 50 this fall – to identify the best practices to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools across the five boroughs and especially in high school where chronic absenteeism rates are higher. Students in pilot schools who were paired with success mentors, gained an additional 11,820 more days of school this year than their counterparts at comparable schools.

The report recommends that chronic absenteeism (not just daily attendance rates) be included in the annual Department of Education Office of Civil Rights School Survey and in state accountability indexes. It also called for early warning and intervention systems and community-wide attendance improvement efforts to spread broadly across the nation.

“The new report shines a critical and much needed spotlight on the prevalence of chronic absenteeism and its devastating consequences,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “As the nation’s largest school district, we see the challenges it poses to our students and schools – which is why we launched a Task Force to use innovative strategies to get students to school every day. With more attention to and study of this problem, districts across the country will have the tools they need to help their students thrive.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

59 comments Add your comment


May 17th, 2012
9:18 am

One of the messages heard frequently in this forum has to do with the lack of families who transmit a high value for education to their children. Here you find evidence of that fact. This is a good example of a problem that schools alone cannot fix. Yet, we are held accountable for the poor performance of these children as if by some miracle they should be able to perform just as well as everyone else in the class who came to school everyday.

Howard Finkelstein

May 17th, 2012
9:23 am

I notice transportation is abused as an excuse by some of these sorry “parents.” If ya cant afford the child or to provide transportation for the child then dont have a child.

Otherwise the child should be taken into State custody and the parent tossed into jail.


May 17th, 2012
9:35 am

This is but one reason why teacher pay for performance will never be an accurate reflection on a teacher’s ability to teach.


May 17th, 2012
9:40 am

The problem is in the homes, not the schools. Yet once again, they expect the schools to solve the problem. How does a school fix a lazy parent? Where is the personal responsibility???? No amount of tax money or special programs will fix this. Ever.


May 17th, 2012
9:42 am

Good point, Chaos.


May 17th, 2012
9:57 am

Chronic abseentism is also prevalent in schools within more affluent communities. There are parents that will fib and report their child “sick” in order to go on trips, extracurricular events or competitions, or simply allowing them to stay home and “catch up” or have an extra day of studying for an announced test.

Maureen, I also blame the chronic abseenteeism rate on school based and county administrators who are unwilling to enforce the attendance rules and don’t have the backbone to deal with confrontational parents.

Abseenteeism is dealt differently per school, there needs to be a state wide enforcment that does not allow flexibility or bending of the rules.

V for Vendetta

May 17th, 2012
10:01 am

Fact: If your child is chronically absent for non-medical reasons, then you are a pathetic parent.

mystery poster

May 17th, 2012
10:06 am

True story.
I once had a parent tell me that she didn’t know what to do – when her son spent the night at his girlfriend’s house he didn’t get to school the next day. Needless to say, girlfriend ended up pregnant and student ended up not graduating.

Former APS Teacher

May 17th, 2012
10:12 am

And these are the numbers of students who are actually reported absent. In APS, the office admin people come behind teachers and change their attendance. I had kids out every other day who were miraculously absent a total of 3 times when it was report card time. Please.


May 17th, 2012
10:14 am

Well, my kid will miss the first three days of school b/c she will be at a summer camp for gifted children. She learns more in a day at that camp than in a month at her middle school. She is a straight A student with sky high test scores and no behavior problems, so she really doesn’t need the first three days of behavior management policies notebook management skills. She learned all that in kindergarten and first grade.

Plus August 1 is too early to start school, and we won’t let our system’s inane ideas of “year around school” interfere with our children getting a broader education than government schools can even think of providing.

It’s important to us that our kids realize that there is a world out there bigger than their government school and that there are people out there to emulate who are more capable than their government teachers (some of whom are excellent – but they are a minority). So sue me.

V for Vendetta

May 17th, 2012
10:17 am


Whew. It’s a good thing you’re so smart; otherwise, your kids might be in trouble!


May 17th, 2012
10:22 am

Who decided that attendance would be one of the factors in whether a school makes AYP? I’m not thrilled by the reliance upon CRCT scores, though I can understand the reasons. But the attendance requirements infuriate me. I’ve taught at two schools that were constantly at risk of not making AYP because of subgroup attenance — NOT because of test scores. I can accept my schools’ responsibility for students performing well on standardized tests, but predicating a school’s rating on attendance is simply unfair. Our school social workers try their best to enforce according to the law, but that only goes so far. We can’t show up at a kid’s door and force her to come to school. It’s ridiculous that we should face such severe punishment (loss of AYP status) for something over which we have no control.


May 17th, 2012
10:38 am

Schools are in a no win situation, we have to deal with chronic absences and that get fuss at by parents for contacting them about that concern. Sign of the itmes…no personal responsibility!!


May 17th, 2012
10:53 am

I suggest we repeal the law requiring students to be in attendance until whatever age. Students and parents should decide if education is important to their futures. Let’s face it some of the prevalent problems may be averted if certain students don’t show up. And while we are at it, stop recognizing “excused” absences. An absent student is an absent student regardless.


May 17th, 2012
11:06 am

The major issue is that under the old AYP and now under CCRPI, the schools are held accountable for student attendance and it is often beyond their control.


May 17th, 2012
11:15 am

Vendetta, if they were not bright, I’d make sure they never missed a day of school. They complain that they sit around half the day while the much rest of their class tries to catch up or while the teacher tries to rein in behavior problems. They are incredibly bored all year long, and it’s heartbreaking to witness. Since there are no honors classes any more the teacher has to “differentiate” across an 80 point IQ span.

This is not an ideal learning environment, and my kids will miss very little in the first three days of school .. .particularly when they are spending those days finally learning with kids who are on their intellectual level for a change.

It’s not like I’m letting them stay home and play video games. This is an excellent learning opportunity that they had to apply to with work samples, teacher recommendations, submission of test scores, etc.

This opportunity only occurs at one time in the summer. It’s an incredible program for them, and I won’t let it be hindered by school system policies that are not in the best interests of high achieving kids. It’s obvious in public education these days that no one is looking out for the high achievers b/c everyone knows that they will “pass the test” with little or no effort, and the teachers (not their fault) are forced to focus on the lowest common denominator b/c classes are now all about “differentiation.”

This fad will pass eventually, but until that time, we will do what we can to make sure that our kids are challenged for at least a couple of weeks a year. If that costs them a few days of government school… so be it.


May 17th, 2012
11:17 am

And to my kids’ school who is held “accountable” for their absences. All I have to say.. is make school engaging by re-establishing ability grouping and removing behavior problems, go back to a summer calendar that makes sense and is in keeping with the rest of the nation, and use a little creativity in teaching and my kids won’t be absent. Summer education programs are very expensive, and we wouldn’t spend the money if we didn’t have to.


May 17th, 2012
11:25 am

I agree with flipper. Also, a student is not absent from school if they do not attend the first day. Absentism does not begin until the student is enrolled. So, if you miss the first the days of school and then register your child you are just not on roll for 3 days, not absent.

In The Trenches

May 17th, 2012
11:42 am

I am a high school teacher. I teach at a Title 1 school on a 4 x 4 block schedule. I have new students each semester. Each semester has approximately 90 days, or 135 hours, of instructional time. This semester, I have 81 students. Of those 81 students, 32 have missed 10 or more days. The breakdown is as follows:

10-19 days (15-28.5 hours): 18 students
20-29 days (30-43.5 hours): 7 students
30-39 days (45-58.5 hours): 3 students
40-49 days (60-73.5 hours): 3 students
50+ days (75+ hours): 1 student

These numbers do not include students who have been suspended repeatedly during the semester.

Truth in Moderation

May 17th, 2012
11:43 am

“The report found only a handful of states measure and report on chronic absenteeism, which the report defines as missing at least 10 percent of school days in a given year, or about 18 days. It estimates that 10 to 15 percent of students nationwide are chronically absent.”

Q: If “only a handful of states measure and report on chronic absenteeism” where do the educrats come up with the data to support their “scaretistic” of 10-15% chronically absent nationwide?

Also, have they done a comparison of the GPA of these “absent” students to that of high attendance students?

As for the welfare queen that didn’t want to get out of bed to get the child to the school bus, we know who to blame for that. LBJ comes to mind……..


May 17th, 2012
11:51 am

These are the same ones who in 10 years will be crying about how unfair it is that someone makes more money than them. And we all wonder why there are so many uneducated people in this country.

no name used

May 17th, 2012
11:57 am

While attendance is important since it does teach them responsibility, it is not all that it is cracked up to be. In my junior year of high school, I cut school for 21 days total in the 2nd semester. My grades however in the core classes (other than geometry which was not going to sink in no matter what) were all A’s and 1 B. This is with that many absences? Um tell me what is wrong with that picture. Sounds to me like the classes were not hard enough. At work, I have wonderful attendance, so I know the importance of it.

As for the kids not being challenged and the teachers having to waste time? Yeah, that is very true. My oldest daughter decided that she wanted to do her senior year in a public high school. I knew that she would be bored senseless. Sure enough, 3 weeks later, she came home just very agitated. When asked about it, she told me that she gets done with what is assigned, and is not allowed to go further since the other kids are not caught up to where she is. ” I spend half the class period playing solitaire” . The teachers’ hands are tied. They can not allow a few students to work ahead because they are having to keep everyone on the same level. Isn’t it supposed to be about education, not keeping up with the Jones family?

This same child, as a 4th grader, lost my mother, to whom she was very close. It was a long illness, and took a huge toll on this child. The small country school she attended ( a good school BTW) KNEW what the situation was. They knew that I was considering therapy for her. I got a letter from them that stated “Your child has missed X amount of FUNDABLE days.” FUNDABLE DAYS. Now, you tell me that it is about education these days. That letter told me the whole truth about it in a nutshell. It was about money at least from the admin side. The teachers, however, were wonderful caring, intelligent people who tried hard to do right by everyone. Shortly thereafter, we began homeschooling her and her sisters. We did this for 6 yrs. It was the absolute best thing I could do for my children. BTW, the kindergarten teacher for my 2nd dd was the one who educated me about homeschooling, and proclaimed that if she was financially able, she would homeschool her own children.

no name used

May 17th, 2012
12:02 pm

@SGA, try telling that to the middle school where I had to enroll my 2nd dd. We moved into the state 6 days after the school year started,and I tried to enroll them on Wednesday after moving on Sunday.We were told that she would already have 4 days worth of absences (2 were weekend days) since she was not enrolled anywhere. I just smiled (because we had foreseen this problem) and said, “nope, she was enrolled in our homeschool program in MS thru the attendance office there; would you like the number?”

High School Math Teacher

May 17th, 2012
12:16 pm

Here’s my study: In the 9th and 10th grades, 15% don’t come to school regularly, 25% come to eat the free food, but could care less about learning, and another 20% come to school, want to learn, but have been promoted beyond their ability level. So, that leaves us 40% who we can reasonably work with.


May 17th, 2012
12:19 pm

I teach my kids responsibility for learning because right now that is their job. Responsibility for learning sometimes requires you to miss a few days at a place where you aren’t learning much so you can learn a lot at a place that is geared toward your ability and motivation. Attendance is not their primary responsibility .. though it is important. Attendance misses the point.. .learning is their responsibility.

And it thrills me to no end if our school loses funding b/c the smart kids have found better opportunities elsewhere. Every parent of a high achieving kid should do what we are doing. If it costs the government schools enough money … maybe they will pay a little attention to the kids who actually give a rip and are capable of creating jobs one day.

We should have National Gifted Child Absence Week. Take your gifted/high achieving kids out of school for a week and put them where they will be challenged with other kids like them…. it could be a movement!


May 17th, 2012
12:25 pm

I’m with Flipper, my son will be missing the first few days because he was accepted to Stanford’s summer program. He won’t be counted as absent, but if he was I WOULD NOT care. 180 days of school is ludicrous to me. More time in the summer is NEEDED to participate in other academic/athletic/musical endeavors AND later school starts- 9AM could go a long way to having these students attend daily. And who is to say the students aren’t being homeschooled when they are away from class. Teachers are constantly missing school as well, reasearch that! Flexibility is NEEDED. If you arrive to work @ 6:45am(bus pickup) promptly EVERYDAY, hooray for you!


May 17th, 2012
12:27 pm

@flipper “They complain that they sit around half the day while the much rest of their class tries to catch up or while the teacher tries to rein in behavior problems. * * * All I have to say.. is make school engaging by re-establishing ability grouping and removing behavior problems * * * and use a little creativity in teaching and my kids won’t be absent.”

If I may be so bold – you should Google “private schools in the Atlanta area” and pick the one that is best for your children.


May 17th, 2012
12:48 pm

Government schools, or public schools, require funding and support from the entire community. NCLB has crippled administrators’ and teachers’ abilities to require much personal responsibility from students. Since schools’ administration faces job loss if the lower-performing students do not meet requirements, nearly all of our efforts have shifted to a near total focus on the underachieving. NCLB does not support the development of our human potential. It punishes one group of stakeholders for the irresponsible behavior of others. Many, many years ago, when I was teaching both AP courses and remedial classes as well, my principal told me that I could not deny a particular student his right to fail. According to my principal, this student was insisting on his right to choose not to meet course requirements. Therefore, I was to stop trying to ‘force’ him to do so. My principal explained that he may well need the experience of failure in order to course-correct before reaching adulthood, after which the price would increase for such a choice. Today, NCLB has informed us all that we fail if a student chooses to fail. While it is good to have some of the support for students whose underachievement is not the result of a personal choice, it is frustrating to observe the deleterious impact of the removal of personal responsibility from all but the teacher. Why should we have to spend more than 15 minutes reviewing rules and the handbook? Why should we devote such large blocks of time and energy to behavior management of the chronically disruptive and irresponsible? A very long time ago, a parent withdrew his 16 year-old son and told him to get a job if he wanted food and housing. After a year of factory work, this student returned, performed more than adequately, and often commented to the slackers that they would do well to change their ways now, before they ended up having the life sucked out of them by grueling, monotonous, trivial, low-paying work. During my last year of teaching, a parent and her student requested permission for him to receive an ‘incomplete’ and submit 48 (absences) days’ worth of assignments, tests, etc. at the beginning of the next semester. The parent had no reason for not accessing the homebound program. The parent had no reason for failing to respond to prior attempts to engage her in a conversation about her son’s attendance or academic performance. The parent ignored messages, both online and via phone, concerning her son’s many, many missing assignments. While the student did indeed have a legitimate illness at one time, it did not account for all of these absences. However, as none were “10 days consecutive and unexcused” the county’s attendance letter was not mailed nor was the social worker notified. I had to endure three meetings with this parent who did not want to hear the answer the first time. I found it interesting that after being completely unresponsive for months and months, this parent and her student went on the ‘war path’ about his grades 5 days before the final exam. Needless to say, we need an attendance requirement. Students who wish to attend class ‘in absentia’….is that the correct term?…..should check out virtual school. Having taken both types of classes myself, I will never view ‘online’ education as the sole answer to all of our educational needs.


May 17th, 2012
2:08 pm

I would propose that one of the most loaded terms in our society is “parent”. What is a parent? In a strict biological context, it is an organism that creates offspring similar to itself. However, that’s not the answer you’d get if you went around taking a poll. Most would give the conventional definitions of caregiver, guardian, mother or father and any other concepts that convey our most altruistic ideas relating to the word. The irony being that when people fail to even come close to our shared concept of what it means to be a parent, we still consider them a “parent” and bestow upon them unwarranted & unearned consideration and reverence. It’s really very bizarre to me.
It’s also a big reason why I could never be a K-12 educator like my exceptional momma was for so many years. Just recently this blog debated the paradoxical contradictions of “Educator as Professional”. Teachers are most certainly professionals, but they exist in a parallel universe to so many of us other professionals. In short, there is no way in &*%$ we would tolerate what teachers endure. The “parents” are a huge part of that.
The idea of having my performance, reputation, compensation and mental health so inexorably tied to others who share almost none of the same responsibilities and expectations is absolutely unacceptable to me. Even worse, almost everyone concedes that those people have more influence over the intended outcome(i.e. successful student) than for which I can reasonably expect of myself as teacher. It would be bad enough to be the ultimate bag-holder for the performance of woefully nurtured children, but to be judged for the ones that aren’t even around half of the time is really absurd. I would never tolerate that in my business. I’d reject bad product from my suppliers, I’d fire bad employees and contractors/vendors and I’d choose to fore-go doing business with clientele that were more of a liability than any asset to my operation.
Again, I’m in the parallel universe of “other” professionals. We can make those choices. We can pursue other opportunities in our fields without having to leave the entire county for another employment option! Teachers just get dumped on. Perpetually. “Parents” that don’t care or worse, do harm. Administrators who undercut your aspirations by failing to address discipline issues and their other essential duties, only to turn around and guide you with their patronizing , and often unqualified, “leadership”. Legislatures and political entities that prescribe all of the solutions du-jour, in strict regiment, regardless of your intelligence, education, experience or ability. And a greater society that ends up pointing the finger right at you when the inevitable failures manifest themselves. My mom knows that when I say, “Teachers are heroes!”, a large part of the sentiment is in semi-cynical reverence. As in, “Heroes are people that do amazing things that most of us have no desire to do”.
When mom was teaching, she loved having me as a classroom volunteer. I loved the experience. I once asked if I could come to a parent-teacher night. Her response? “No way on earth! You’re my son and I know you VERY well!”. hahaha…She certainly does. Because it’d be over as soon as some 23 yr.-old mother of a 3rd-grader, without so much as a GED, who was an apathetic nightmare as a parent, started to lecture my mom about “teaching” and “how it should be done” and how her role as a “parent” conveyed magical consideration. My socially unacceptable response: “Alright, you’re fired. Next!”. Thanks mom for not letting me attend. ;-)


May 17th, 2012
2:18 pm

Question #1 How often do you volunteer at your school to help the situation?
Question #2 Do you realize that you are part of the “behavior” problem by teaching your kids that school is not important and laws do not need to be followed unless they benefit yourself?
Question #3 Why are your children not in private school since they are obviously smarter than everyone else they come in contact with?
Question#4 Do you realize that by not sending your child on the first day or week of school you have jeopardized learning time of other students so your child can be caught up?


May 17th, 2012
2:20 pm

@AngryRedMarsWoman… if we had the money to afford it, we would.

V for Vendetta

May 17th, 2012
2:20 pm

TheGoldenRam is my new best friend


May 17th, 2012
2:37 pm


1) I volunteer many hours a month and have had many leadership positions, including Treasurer twice. I have also served on three school councils. This is where I learned what an unholy mess the public education system is.

2) They know that learning is critically important and that they are expected to make the most out of whatever learning resources we can provide… They know that they need to pursue learning where they actually find it. Government school, in and of itself, is not necessarily important unless it’s getting the job done. Also, there is no law stating that our kids cannot miss the first three days of school. Their teachers and the principal will be made aware of their whereabouts. I do not expect the police to show up at my home or workplace. If they do, I’m happy to explain the situation to them.

3) They are not in private school b/c we do not have $90,000 after taxes laying around to pay for three children in private school. We do the best we can to supplement. They are not smarter than everyone else. Unfortunately, there are dozens of kids in their boat. That is the problem. As a teacher, you should know that.

4) Do you realize that by not providing ability grouped classes and focusing only on the bottom of the barrel that you have jeopardized the learning time of my child and dozens of others for their entire 13 years of grade school? Maybe it’s not your fault… maybe it’s your administration and the federal government shoving it down your throat. My guess is that you’d welcome the opportunity to teach a classroom of well behaved kids that are on the same academic level.

High School Math Teacher

May 17th, 2012
2:51 pm

Very good, Golden Ram. Very good.

Teaching in FL is worse

May 17th, 2012
3:00 pm

@Truth in Moderation 11:43–

“As for the welfare queen that didn’t want to get out of bed to get the child to the school bus, we know who to blame for that. LBJ comes to mind……..” Yes, we do-that person. Shift blame and understand personal responsibility.

Many love to wring their hands and complain how other countries “out-test” us. I think you will find the common thread is number of days in school. School is year-round in Japan (I know-I taught there.)

To those who would like to align our schedules with the rest of the country (start after Labor Day)-I agree! Everyone time it is brought up, the loudest voices are those against.

Good Mother

May 17th, 2012
3:19 pm

My child’s teacher is absent more than my child. My child’s teacher was also late to ALL our parent teacher conferences. I am sure all teachers are not like that but we must first clear the ranks of disgruntled teachers who show up late or not at all.

Good Mother

May 17th, 2012
3:37 pm

and about parents letting their kids out of school to pursue real academic interests…it sure does beat going to the park for a play date….and we also have to remember — teachers get out of school to do premethean board training — that’s NOT an acceptable absence in my book.
Physician heal thyself.


May 17th, 2012
4:03 pm

Is there a study on what percentage a teacher is absent through out the school year not including furloughs. My sons 3rd grade teacher was absent every wednesday for two months…no explanation or reason given by the school….

We used to have award for no absentee students..maybe incentivise it with money, gift card, weed something…

If the student misses (unexcused)more than 5 days, the parent should have to bring the student to school for the remainder ofthe school year. If not the student is sent to alternative school and the parent has to do the same thing there..if not the student and parent are put in jail for the amount of days the student missed,…just sayin try it…no one wants a record…well you would think they wouldn’t….

neighborhood schools

May 17th, 2012
4:18 pm

If elementary schools in impoverished areas were with in walking distance it would go along way to cut down on the truancy problem in that population.
If we did not start school in GA in the middle of the hot summer, when it is still light at 8:30 or 9, people would not be missing the beginning of school to stay in step with family in other parts of the country.
If school was more engaging and most if not all days devoted to instruction, you would cut down on middle class involved parents prioritizing other activities over school.
You cannot fix all the truancy, but this would really affect change in 2 areas where change is possible.

sneak peek into education

May 17th, 2012
5:51 pm

@Good Mother…. I don’t know how it is possible that a teacher is late to teacher conferences unless he/she is accommodating a parent who turned up late themselves. I have worked in many schools and conferences happen either the half day after the students go home (as in Gwinnett with their early release days) or after school. Teachers are not allowed to leave the building before appointments. What you are saying seems implausible to me.

@ Frankie…Maybe the teacher has cancer or another medical issue that needed weekly treatments and maybe you weren’t informed because it is a private matter. Maybe instead of insinuating that the teacher was taking a day for unwarranted reasons, you could look at it from the point of view that she had to take care of some urgent/necessary business. You can ask any teacher; it takes so much work, time, and effort to prepare for a sub that you try to avoid days off whenever possible.


May 17th, 2012
6:49 pm

I used to be an assistant principal that enforced the rules regarding attendance. When I did that and a student missed more than 7 days (excused and unexcused absences – to include suspensions) they automatically lost credit. The appeal process allowed every student the opportunity to regain their credit. Everyone knew the process. It was approved by the central office administration. When parents appealed and their appeal was denied they appealed to higher ups. Over 90% of the time the appeal was granted because the parents were complaining. So, in essence, it was the parents who did not want the process. They wanted to do whatever they wanted with no consequences.

Ron F.

May 17th, 2012
8:13 pm

We were told once when we asked about this issue that we had no control over it, so we had to just teach them on the days they attended. We have to find a way to deal with chronic attendance and stick to it. We had a policy in place but dropped it because someone at the district level got tired of all the work it took. And it’s that 10-15% of kids that cost us on test scores and other measures of success.

mountain man

May 17th, 2012
10:20 pm

And you wonder why some of our students are not performing on grade level? I have said it so many times – you can’t teach students who aren’t there.


May 18th, 2012
6:04 am

Maureen, you’re correct, this is a parent problem, and not an easy one for schools to overcome.

I wonder why it’s not getting the headlines that many other school stories get?

Approximately 40 % of the students in my school are chronically absent. However, the PTB are sure that if they focus enough training on teachers, we’ll be able to overcome that.


May 18th, 2012
8:35 am

I think if somehow we were to change some of the under-riding legal presumptions that prioritize “families” being together despite conditions — almost at any cost and try to shift to something that may be more of a overwhelming “best interest of child” standard — perhaps we could shift to utilize the tracking of unexcused absences as an indicator of something “awry” at home for DFCS and ultimately use that as a reason to put the kids in these situations in a boarding school type situation and try to get at the root of the situation and start breaking some cycles. The reason this doesn’t seem to happen is this “premise” “keeping families” together and “reunification” no matter how dysfunctional and no matter the price being paid by society. Radical I know.

Warrior Woman

May 18th, 2012
11:39 am

@sneak peek – Why not afford the same assumption of good reasons to students and parents that you want for teachers? And at some level, it doesn’t matter why the teacher is absent. The class still suffers.

Warrior Woman

May 18th, 2012
11:41 am

@flipper – I agree with your points entirely!

Mary Elizabeth

May 18th, 2012
5:15 pm

I am reposted my closing statement of my 1:39 pm, 5/17/12 post, on the previous thread entitled, “Study: A wider social services safety net does not guarantee fewer children slip.” See below.

“The study confirms that parents are the most important factor. I agree with that. However, I do not think that the study explored, sufficiently, the effect of government’s social safety nets on the parents, themselves, over generations. It did explore the effects of those safety nets on children. Poverty, however, is generational. Poor parenting is also, often, generational. If any society expects to solve the problem of its dysfunctional children, it must also look within, and not simply blame the problem exclusively on ’sorry parents,’ who are erroneously perceived to be isolated from the society in which they must exist.”

And, from the article, above, are these words regarding the dysfunctional problem of school absenteeism of some students:

“Absenteeism is a parent problem. And it speaks to larger problems when a parent doesn’t see the importance of getting their children to school.”

And from studies, above, are these findings:

“While the problem affects youth of all backgrounds, children in poverty are more likely to be chronically absent. In Maryland, chronic absentee rates for poor students were more than 30 percent, compared to less than 12 percent for students from more affluent families.”

“The impact of these missed days is dramatic – students are less likely to score well on achievement tests and less likely to graduate. Students who miss 10 percent of school days on average score in the 30th percentile on standardized reading and math tests, compared to those with zero absences, scoring in the 50th percentile.”

“Looking at data from multiple states and school districts, the researchers found that consistently high chronic absenteeism was the strongest predictor of dropping out of high school, stronger even than course failures, suspension or test scores.”

To pull all of these thoughts together, notice, first, the following key words from the article, above, as to the causes, or effects, of school absenteeism:



“30th percentile on standardized reading and math tests,”

“dropping out of school.”

Notice, now, the following key words from my paragraph, restated above:

“poor parenting,”



“dysfunctional children,”

“effects of government social safety nets.”

Obviously there is belief in the positisve impact of school incentive programs to help cut down on school absenteeism, as affirmed by Mayor Bloomberg of NYC, and others.

There should be just as much belief that governmental social programs would help to alleviate much of the poverty in our nation, which effects absenteeism, reading ability, achievement scores, and drop out rates. Again, poverty is generational. Poor parenting is also, often, generational. Attack poverty through governmental intervention, with the committed belief that by doing so there will be a long-ranged positive effect on school absenteeism, reading ability, achievement test scores, and drop out rates, among many other problems within society brought about through poverty, such as incarceration rates and unemployment rates.

One must ask the question, “What comes first, ‘the chicken or the egg?’ Poverty fosters illiteracy. Therefore, do students not attend school because they are not able to cope with the material and the frustration becomes too great, or are they not able to function on grade level material because they have been absent so much from school? Whatever the answer, governmental social programs can help to alleviate poverty, but there must be an emphasis within our nation, once again, on the value of these social programs instead of a nullification of their value. We must restore balance. Personal responsibility is vital. Governmental responsibility is also vital.

Good Mother

May 18th, 2012
6:13 pm

Nr Numbers — do you really think about what you say? If a kid misses 7 days and they are EXCUSED you lose credit?
do you not realize that children are barred from attending school when they have a fever because they are contagious?Do you want everyone to get strep throat because of the stupid policy?\
These stupid no tolerance policies are idiotic.
My child has GREAT attendance BUT he/she was “lucky” enough to have strep throat, a common illness, over Christmas break. If my child was in your school and got the strep throat during a non-hoiday, he’d been suspended.

Elementary Teacher

May 18th, 2012
8:41 pm

I have a student who failed the CRCT twice last year and is repeating the grade. She failed the CRCT again (retest scores aren’t back). Did I mention that she has been tardy 40 times and absent 10 times this year and was absent/tardy the same last year. Her excuse is her dad never remembers to reset the alarm for her mom when he leaves for work. I say spend $5 and get a second alarm clock. Another student has missed over 15 days of school for “sore throat”, stomach ache”, “headache” etc. Not once has a doctor’s excuse been sent in, only mom’s handwritten notes. If my child was this sickly we would be at the pediatrician’s or specialist’s office until we had an answer for these health issues. This child was also withdrawn from school before the end of the year to be “homeschooled”.

Meanwhile I have another student that missed 2 days this year (doctor’s appointments) that mom notified me the day before the absence and sent a doctor’s excuse after the appointment. Learning for this child is a HUGE struggle due to a processing disorder. I really didn’t expect her to pass the CRCT because she has no testing accommodations (at parent’s insistence). She didn’t have the highest scores in the class but she passed with good scores because she came to school, she listened, she asked questions, and she worked. I’m more proud of her score that I am of my student who scored perfect on the test.