State Agency Releases Data on Student Attendance and Absenteeism

School attendance is a substantial factor in student success. While it seems like this notion is intuitive, Washington state was recently ranked second-worst in the nation for its number of chronically absent students.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) released data and analytics earlier this week on student absenteeism rates. For the 2015-16 school year, an average of 16.7 percent of students across the state were chronically absent, which is a 0.7 percent increase from the 2014-15 school year.

“Chronically absent” is defined as a student missing 10 percent or more of their school days, equaling 18 days in a year or two days per month. Students who are chronically absent do not perform as well as their peers who show up, and the linkage begins as early as kindergarten.

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Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten are considerably less likely to read be able to read at grade-level by third grade. On the same note, chronically absent ninth graders are much more likely to fail at least one core course (math, English, or science). In fact, attendance and failing a core course in the ninth grade are two of the strongest predictors of whether or not a student graduates high school.

“About 21 percent of our students are not graduating high school, and absenteeism plays a huge role in that,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“We share this data with districts, educators, parents, and communities because we all have a role to play in promoting good attendance and getting our students graduated,” Superintendent Reykdal continued.

During the last year, OSPI has interviewed districts that have been successful in lowering absenteeism rates. Most of these districts are providing a “multi-tiered system of supports,” which is a framework that aligns both academic and non-academic supports with the students who need them most.

The districts with low absenteeism rates are providing supports by:

  • using data to catch absences early before they add up;
  • building positive relationships with families and students and engaging them early and often;
  • clearly communicating the school’s attendance expectations;
  • creating community partnerships; and
  • raising awareness of the impacts of chronic absenteeism.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver and Washington native Jermaine Kearse recently partnered with OSPI, the Department of Social and Health Services, and Mentoring Works Washington to leave voicemails for students and parents reminding them not to miss school.

“Get up and get to school! Don’t be left on the sidelines. The future is all yours; all you have to do is show up,” Kearse’s message to students says. The partnership also includes the Seattle Storm and Seattle Sounders, who will work with players to set up recordings soon.

Chronic absenteeism is one of the indicators that will be included for schools in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability framework.

Today’s release is part of OSPI’s Performance Indicators – Data and Analytics work designed to help the state and school districts make data-informed decisions. As new data sets are released, they are posted on the OSPI Data and Analytics webpage.

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