The Biden-Harris Administration has made historic investments to help ensure that all children can thrive in the 21st century – and that begins with students being in school every day. Chronic absenteeism – students missing 10% or more of school – emerged as a serious challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic due to school closures, which began during the previous Administration. The U.S. rate of chronic absenteeism reached about 31% in the 2021-2022 school year. There have been improvements in the 2022-2023 school year, with some American schools and school systems demonstrating significant progress based on proven strategies. 
But absenteeism remains a challenge for many schools, both in the United States and around the world. Students who are chronically absent are much less likely to read at grade level and to graduate high school. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, absenteeism can account for up to 27% and 45% of the post-pandemic test score declines in math and reading, respectively.
Eliminating as few as 10 absences per year could have significant impacts on the probability of students graduating high school and enrolling in college. A new brief released today shows that some districts are improving a lot and others much less. That is consistent with other research showing that district, school, and teacher responses can make a significant difference to absenteeism.
We as a country should not accept chronic absenteeism as a new normal. Earlier this year, the Administration announced its Improving Student Achievement Agenda. And today at the White House, the Administration will host the Every Day Counts Summit featuring bipartisan state and local education leaders who are tackling absenteeism head on using evidence-based approaches.
Today, the Administration is calling on states, cities and towns, and schools to cultivate a “culture of attendance” and send a clear message that students need to be in school. To support effective communications, the Administration is sharing tools for messaging effectively to parents about attendance. In addition, the Administration supports efforts by state and local leaders to report in real time on student absences by school—in order to track progress and address challenges as they occur. At the Summit, the state superintendents for Alabama and Indiana will share the ways they are gathering, sharing, and using data already.
In addition to prioritizing and reporting on absenteeism, the Administration’s strategy calls for adopting four other strategies:

  1. Increasing effective communication with families, including the use of tactics like texting, which may be part of creating what Attendance Works refers to as a “culture of attendance”;
  2. Visiting families at home to help find supportive solutions;
  3. Making school more relevant for students so they want to be there; and
  4. Meeting the basic needs of students and families, including through investing in Full-Service Community Schools, which, among other features, connect families to supports such as health care, housing, and child care.

The Governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and leaders from four school districts, will talk about how they are advancing these strategies. 

As part of the Every Day Counts Summit, the Administration is announcing these new actions:

  • Targeting competitive federal grant programs to activities intended to increase student attendance and engagement. This month, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Notice Inviting Applications for the Education Innovation and Research grant program, making available approximately $250 million to create, develop, implement, and replicate evidence-based solutions that accelerate student achievement, including those designed to reduce chronic absenteeism and increase student engagement. In the coming weeks, the Department will also release Notices Inviting Applications for the Stronger Connections Technical Assistance and Capacity Building grant program and the Promise Neighborhoods grant program, both of which can support student attendance and engagement.
  • Publishing new resources and tools on the effective use of data to identify students who are chronically absent and intervene early. The Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences will issue resources supporting schools in using data and early warning systems to help identify patterns in student attendance, build positive school climate and strong family relationships, and effectively communicate with parents on school attendance  – including personalized notifications about how many days a student has missed. In addition, the Department’s Student Engagement and Attendance Center is releasing a new toolkit for states and districts to examine root causes of chronic absenteeism and identify interventions. The Department’s National Center for Education Statistics will also collect new data on causes of chronic absenteeism this June through its School Pulse Panel survey and the Department will publish new data on school attendance at the state, local, and school levels later this year.
  • Releasing a new resource for increasing student attendance, engagement, and success through career-connected learning, with examples and connections that schools can use to increase career pathways. The Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult education previously announced $25 million in grant awards to advance Career-Connected High Schools, supporting a critical strategy to combat absenteeism for high school students – making school more relevant.
  • Issuing a new resource on addressing transportation needs to improve school attendance. Many students miss school because of transportation issues, especially in vulnerable communities. To address this issue, many transit agencies, school districts and local governments across the country work together to offer free or reduced transit fares for students. In time for back to school, the Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Education will distribute a resource highlighting ways to make bus and train transit a viable and affordable option for young people to get to and from school.

To support these efforts and the evidence-based strategies described above, several new commitments to tackling absenteeism in every corner of the country will be announced at the Summit:

  • Overdeck Family Foundation and the Ad Council Research Institute have committed to working together on a new messaging toolkit for states, school districts, and principals based on new research around effectively communicating with parents and families to increase student attendance. This messaging toolkit will be ready in time for back to school.
  • The National Partnership for Student Success Support Hub at the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center is releasing a Digital Backpack – “Resources to Address Chronic Absenteeism in Your Community” – that includes a curated set of publicly available resources for easy reference. The Annenberg Institute at Brown University and Results for America  are releasing a new EdResearch for Action Brief  designed to support an evidence-based approach to increasing school connectedness. The GRAD Partnership is also releasing a resource with guiding questions and action planning templates that schools and districts can use to create a comprehensive approach to reducing absenteeism that is customized to local conditions and additional resources for addressing school-wide attendance patterns and meeting individual student needs. 
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 67,000 pediatricians across the U.S., will engage its members to reinforce the key role of our nation’s pediatricians in addressing school attendance through individual interactions with patients and their parents, as well as through systems-level partnerships with schools. AAP has worked with partners in K-12 to reinforce the link between school attendance and good health and stress the value of developing strong school attendance habits as early as preschool. AAP will provide resources to parents with guidance for when to keep children home from school, tips for concerned parents on addressing school avoidance, and guidance on how best to prepare for the start of each school year.

Today’s announcements build on the previous actions of the Administration, including targeting federal competitive grant programs to prioritize evidence-based approaches to supporting student  achievement, including those that address chronic absenteeism; issuing a letter to state education leaders sharing effective strategies for addressing chronic absenteeism and the federal resources available to support their efforts; and explaining the flexibility available for pandemic relief funds to support these activities through the 2024-25 school year.

To support and sustain state and local investments in increasing student attendance and engagement, the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget proposal includes $8 billion in mandatory funding for Academic Acceleration and Achievement Grants to help close opportunity and achievement gaps, including supporting evidence-based strategies to increase student attendance and engagement.

The Administration has also provided resources and opportunities to support states, districts, and schools including:

  • The Department of Education provided guidance to states on how to use American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth funds for transportation to and from schools for students experiencing homelessness. Students experiencing homelessness face particular challenges in attending school regularly. More than half of students experiencing homelessness were chronically absent in the 2021-2022 school year. 
  • Providing funding through the STOP School Violence Program, in part through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, to improve school safety by providing students, teachers, and staff with the tools they need to recognize, respond quickly to, and prevent acts of violence. This program funds measures that promote a positive and healthy school climate including, anti-bullying training, enhancing access to school-based behavioral health services, implementing appropriate social and emotional learning programs, and hiring personnel to help create a welcoming school climate, all of which have been proven to increase student attendance and engagement.

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