Chronic Absenteeism: What Are Its Causes, and How Can Teachers Detect Them?

Posted by Jeff WatsonO

December 20, 2017

Discover how teachers can detect chronic absenteeism — and take action.


For a long time, school administrators and education researchers believed average daily attendance (ADA) rates were the only numbers needed to provide a full picture of student attendance and school success.But research shows that chronic absenteeism rates — or missing 10 percent of school for any reason — may be masked by ADA calculations. For example, an ADA of 95% for a school with 200 students could be the result of almost one-third of the student body being chronically absent. It all comes down to whether absences are distributed evenly across populations, or if one particular group is consistently absent.


Attendance is one of the strongest, if not the strongest student factor in predicting student outcomes, so learning to track it and identify abnormalities is crucial. Let’s take a closer look at how to identify and measure chronic absences.


What causes chronic absence, and how can educators detect it?


Chronic absenteeism can mean a student misses only two or three days every month, adding up to eighteen days or more over the course of the school year. But for educators who teach multiple classes a day, it can be hard to stay on top of who is trending to be chronically absent. Likewise, parents may not realize that their child’s attendance rate. One thorny problem is that the best time to act is as early as possible before a student is severely chronically absent.


Keep in mind, a variety of underlying factors that may be contributing to a student’s chronic absenteeism. Some of these factors may be:

  • Lack of transportation to and from school, or no safe path to and from school.
  • Housing instability or homelessness.
  • Missing school for other commitments, like work or supporting family members.
  • Low engagement
  • Social emotional stressors
  • A disability or health issue.
  • Bullying, or other social issues at school.
  • Poor school climate, or lack of engaging material or teachers at school.


In order to provide the appropriate intervention, it’s important for educators to identify the root cause of a student’s chronic absence. Stakeholders will want to communicate with the student and family members, other teachers, school specialists, and social workers.


How can educators track chronic absences?


By collecting and monitoring attendance data in a way that makes it easy to spot chronic absences, educators can work more quickly to resolve the underlying issues impacting each student. But different teachers, schools, and districts often have varying methods for recording attendance information, which can make it challenging to take a big-picture view of a student’s attendance across multiple classes, semesters, and school years.


Data management platforms like Hoonuit are designed to simplify data collection and analysis so that educators can easily identify students who need additional support. Reporting systems are well suited for tracking and reporting chronically absent students. A quality reporting system will highlight students who are (and those who are almost) chronic absent. Viewing attendance data for a variety of durations (Annual, monthly, weekly) can show short and long term trends. Likewise, a good reporting system will also combine attendance data with other domains of data like behavior, test scores, and program participation. This is critical for understanding how different aspects of the whole child may be related.


Hoonuit enables educators to more easily identify at-risk students, take action quickly, and offer students the support and attention they need to achieve academic success. Hoonuit also can show whether or not students are turning around (hopefully!) or if additional interventions should be considered.


[UPDATE] Explore this topic further in my related posts:


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