Attendance & Truancy
Efforts to improve school attendance and reduce dropout rates are part of the larger effort to increase achievement and close performance gaps between student subgroups. Safe and healthy schools – ones that employ a challenging curriculum and reinforce high expectations for academics, behavior, and social responsibility – are schools that motivate students to attend.
"Truancy" means unexcused absence from school. However, there is an important distinction between truants and chronic truants. A student displays truant behavior with a single unexcused absence from school, but a student needs to reach or surpass a certain number of unexcused absences to be considered a chronic truant. Virginia law does not define a truant specifically but does define a child who is habitually and without justification absent from school as a "child in need of supervision" when certain other conditions are met.
Chronic absenteeism, on the other hand, incorporates all absences: excused, unexcused and suspensions. The focus is on the academic consequences of this lost instructional time and on preventing absences before students miss so much school that they fall behind. It recognizes that students miss school for many understandable issues such as asthma or homelessness or unreliable transportation, for which a punitive response is not appropriate. But what helps is working with families to share the importance of attendance and to fix the underlying problems that lead to absenteeism.
Given this broader focus, addressing chronic absenteeism becomes an issue for the entire community. Medical providers can help address health challenges; transit and housing agencies can resolve other barriers to attendance; volunteers from businesses and faith communities can mentor students and support families. These approaches can also reduce truancy.
Like truancy, chronic absence has no common definition, though many researchers and schools monitor how many students are missing 10 percent or more of the school year. That’s about two days a month, or 18 days in most school districts. The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights this spring will release data showing how many students miss 15 or more days.
Attendance & Truancy Among Virginia Students Modules
In response to the Call to Action from the USED and the Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism, the Virginia Department of Education, in collaboration with Attendance Works, has created Attendance and Truancy Among Virginia Students 12 module training series.
- Attendance Works – Chronic Absence Tracking Tools
- The Ad Council: Attendances Add Up
- Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships, John Hopkins University
- Virginia Early Warning System (VEWS)
- Graduation, Completion & Dropout Data
- More » Outside Information and Resources