Educators consider chronic absenteeism a red alert — a blaring sign that a student might be academically at risk. Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, a level educators say puts students at risk of falling behind academically, failing classes, and dropping out. Schools and parents now have a new tool to investigate the problem, in the form of open-source data from the California Department of Education. The patterns that emerge from this data are discussed in “Seize the Data Opportunity in California: Using Chronic Absence to Improve Educational Outcomes,” a report produced by UC Davis Center for Regional Change researchers and partners from Attendance Works and Children Now.
The report uses an interactive map to pinpoint schools and counties with high rates of chronic absenteeism based on data from the 2016-17 school year. Results show that more than 800 traditional public schools in California had high rates of chronic absence, where 20 percent or more of their students met the risk threshold. Nearly 20% of traditional high schools had high rates of chronic absenteeism. Schools have collected attendance data for years, but a new state reporting requirement allows researchers to better examine the depth of the problem of chronic absenteeism.