Changing the Odds Thought Leader Interview: Chronic Absenteeism – Indicator and Cause of Educational Inequity

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 1 out of 6 students were chronically absent. As data is reported out this year, we are likely to see a dramatic increase in chronic absence, especially for the populations hardest hit by Covid-19[1]. What is the definition of chronic absence? What are the metrics? Since absenteeism is not just a cause of educational inequity, but a leading indicator, how can attendance and chronic absenteeism data be used and improved to assess barriers and the lack of positive conditions for learning that undermine students’ and families’ relationships with their schools? What have we learned during the pandemic (e.g., measuring attendance in virtual learning) that can be used to rethink definitions and metrics in the fall? To track and count engagement opportunities this summer?

Karen Pittman spoke with Hedy Chang, Attendance Works President and Executive Director and David Osher, American Institutes for Research Vice President and Institute Fellow, in a two-part probing discussion: First, on how to understand, utilize, and take responsibility for attendance data – calling attention to how past chronic absence data can be used to determine where additional resources are needed to engage and support families and communities to reduce the adverse impact of the pandemic. Second, how could we leverage summer engagement and learning opportunities to support the transition back to school for students and families who missed too much instruction during the pandemic?

[1]Using Chronic Absence to Map Interrupted Schooling, Instructional Loss and Educational Inequity: Insights from School Year 2017-18 Data, February 2021.