Chronic Absence is a Big Problem in These School Districts - but it's Getting Better

Nov 2, 2016

A new report from the University of Virginia shows about ten percent of students in this state’s public schools are absent for three weeks or more each year, and in three large districts the rates were even higher. 

When Professor Luke Miller and his colleagues graphed the number of kids who were chronically absent from public schools in Richmond, Petersburg and Norfolk, they ended up with something resembling the letter U:

“It’s high in pre-K, decreases towards the 5th grade, and then it jumps way up, so that in high school in Richmond and in Petersburg, in some high schools close to 40% of kids are missing 10% or more of the school year, which is astonishingly high.  If we want kids to graduate from school with whatever skills we deem are important, they kind of have to be in school.”

Miller found students who were chronically absent did not do as well as those who attended regularly, and they continued to suffer academically for another two years.  He also found kids who moved from one school to another tended to be absent more.

“Those students who make those types of moves have much higher rates of chronic absenteeism, but you also see students – especially middle school, when a kid moves into middle school that they also have higher rates of absenteeism.”

On a brighter note, he adds, the situation is improving. The overall numbers of students who are chronically absent from class has fallen steadily for the last decade.