Students are present for more than 90 percent of enrolled days.
Percentage of students who are present for more than 90 percent of their enrolled days, excluding students enrolled for fewer than 90 days
Data Source(s)Administrative data
Why it matters
Students must be consistently present to learn and succeed in school. Consistent attendance (attending 90 percent or more of school days) is a positive reframing of chronic absenteeism (missing 10 percent or more of school days), a metric which is widely used in the field and is negatively correlated with other measures of school performance. Research shows that absenteeism is related to reduced math and reading achievement outcomes, reduced educational engagement, and reduced social engagement. Chronic absenteeism in middle school and high school is also related to lower rates of on-time graduation. As one specific example, Allensworth and Easton found that course attendance was eight times more predictive of failing a 9th-grade course than were 8th-grade test scores, and that attendance was the strongest predictor of overall grades. At the postsecondary level, attendance has a strong positive relationship with course grades and college grade point average (GPA). Attendance is also commonly used in college early warning systems to help identify students at risk of falling behind and improve retention and graduation rates.
Despite issues with tracking attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the available data show significant increases in chronic absenteeism during this period. For instance, in Connecticut—one state that required regular attendance taking during the pandemic and standardized attendance tracking across learning modes—rates of absenteeism increased from 12 to 20 percent from 2020 to 2021; however, students from low-income households and Black and Latino students were two to three times more likely to be chronically absent than students from higher-income households and of other races and ethnicities.
What to know about measurement
Pre-K and K–12 schools regularly collect attendance data as part of their normal operations. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised the importance of establishing a common definition of what constitutes a full day of attendance across all modes of instruction, including in-person, remote, asynchronous, and hybrid. At the postsecondary level, colleges with early warning systems often track student attendance, though the extent to which they track attendance and methods for doing so vary widely across institutions, making this indicator more challenging to measure at scale in postsecondary contexts.
We selected an attendance rate of 90 percent as a minimum recommendation to align with the most commonly reported measure of chronic absenteeism, used by Attendance Works and the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). However, data users might conduct further analyses of attendance data. For example, Attendance Works recommends examining satisfactory attendance (missing less than 5 percent of school days), at-risk attendance (missing 6 to 10 percent of school days), moderate chronic absence (missing 10 to 19 percent of school days), and severe chronic absence (missing 20 percent or more of school days). Although these thresholds are commonly used to determine whether students are chronically absent across grade levels, we encourage framework users to examine attendance by grade level, as students in later grades tend to have lower attendance rates, on average, than students in early grades.
This indicator appeared in 12 source frameworks reviewed for this report. As discussed above, our proposed measure aligns with the commonly accepted definition of chronic absenteeism put forth by the P-16 Framework, Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Birth to Grade 3 Framework, and the CORE Districts’ Improvement Measures.
The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.