The California Department of Education has released its first-ever statewide analysis of chronic absenteeism. Statewide, 10.4% of California’s 6.4 million students experienced chronic absenteeism in the 2016-17 school year, which is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school days in a school year.
This statewide rate varied considerably between student subgroups and by student race and ethnicity. Among student subgroups, chronic absenteeism was highest among foster youth, with a full 25.1 percent experiencing it in the 2016-17 school year. Homeless youth were behind at 21.1 percent, following by students with disabilities (17.7%), socioeconomically disadvantaged (13.5), English learners (10.5%) and Migrant Education (9.1%).
The requirement to track chronic absenteeism was part of the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula. School districts are required to track it as part of their Local Control and Accountability Plan, a detailed plan developed by every school district to track student outcomes.
Tracking chronic absenteeism resulted due to mounting evidence that even short breaks in school attendance affects learning and school performance. According to research by Attendance Works, kindergarten students who are chronically absent are less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade and more likely to be held back in later grades. By sixth grade, absenteeism is one of the three early warning indicators influencing high school graduation. In addition to statewide data, information about chronic absenteeism is reported by school and district on CDE’s database, DataQuest.