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Attendance and Truancy

September is Attendance Awareness Month, a time for individuals and organizations to learn about attendance issues, absenteeism and the effects attendance can have on academic performance and success.


Did you know that missing just 10 percent of the school year in the early grades can leave many students struggling throughout elementary school? Or that by sixth grade, missing only that much school is strongly linked to course failure and even eventually dropping out of high school?  That’s just 18 days of the school year— or two to three days per month. Every school day counts, and everyone can make a difference: educators, afterschool programs, mayors, businesses, parents… really, everyone!


The good news is chronic absence is a problem we can fix when schools and communities collaborate with students and families, starting in the early grades, to identify and overcome barriers to getting to school. Together we can nurture a culture of engagement and attendance that encourages showing up every day even when it isn’t easy.


Daily attendance is essential to student success at all grade levels, too many absences can lead to students falling behind and ultimately dropping out.  An area of focus is the state’s chronic absenteeism rate, which is when a student misses 10 percent or more of a school year or approximately 18 days a year. This is equivalent to two days every month.


What the Research says

  • 1 in 3 Colorado students are chronically absent. 
  • In ninth grade, attendance is a better predictor than test scores that a student will leave before completing high school.
  • An average of nearly 113,000 Colorado students are habitually truant during the school year. 

How Colorado Communities are Responding

The School Attendance Taskforce (SATF) convened from December 2017 to December 2018 to address the rise in chronic absenteeism and truancy in Colorado, it included a cross-sector team of 50 leaders representing more than 26 schools, districts, organizations, judicial districts, and state agencies. Collectively SAFT teams conducted a statewide scan of intervention strategies, and identified common themes, which led to the six recommendations:

  1. Create a multi-step process before a truancy court referral
  2. Leverage funding from multiple sources
  3. Focus attention on awareness of importance of attendance, truancy, and prevention and intervention supports that are available
  4. Build collaborative communities to help families navigate and more quickly access resources in the community
  5. Improve school climate
  6. Increase the value of education


Local Best Practices for Increasing Attendance

There are a variety of approaches schools can take to increase student attendance. Below are several strategies schools can utilize. 

  • Focus on 9th-Grade – Improvements in long-term outcomes are made when schools focus on students’ 9th-grade year. 
  • Focus on Middle School– Students’ middle school attendance rate and GPA are the best indicators to determine their high school success. Targeted interventions aiding students’ transition from middle school to high school could improve academic performance.
  • Mentoring Programs– The effects of absenteeism are reversible with the help of mentors, incentive programs, and awareness campaigns.
  • Parent engagement– Engaging parents in their child’s educational career is a key strategy in improving attendance and academic performance.
  • School-based health centers and health interventions– School-based health centers and interventions have a direct impact on educational outcomes, such as attendance.


Where can I learn more?

Schools and Districts can reference their localized data and how it compares to the state attendance, truancy and chronic absenteeism date through the following resources and materials: 

Student Attendance Fact Sheet

Attendance Works Toolkit

The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data

School Nurse’s Role in Chronic Absenteeism (PDF)

School Attendance Task Force Recommendations