Center for Educational Transformation

What's Your Excuse?: Chronic Absenteeism in a Rural Majority-Minority High School

ain grooms

Ain Grooms




ABSTRACT: Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of a school year--the equivalent of 18 days--for excused or unexcused reasons (Chang & Romero, 2008). Chronic absenteeism, by definition, includes chronic truancy, which refers to frequent unexcused absences. Chronic absenteeism can be a barometer of academic success, future dropout, and job earning potential (Chang & Romero, 2008; Gottfried, 2011). Under guidelines established by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states must report chronic absenteeism rates and can receive funding to address the concern. ESSA guidelines also require that, in addition to reporting test scores, states use a school quality indicator to measure school performance; states may choose to use their chronic absenteeism rates as that indicator.

Iowa is becoming more diverse, with Hispanic/Latino students comprising 10% of the state's total preK-12 school population (Iowa Department of Education, 2016). Data show high absentee rates among Hispanic high school students nationwide (21%), and the Hispanic/Latino population is growing substantially in the state's rural areas. Thus, this study will use a rural high school with a significant Hispanic population as its research site. 

This research will investigate how rural school personnel, often with limited resources and expertise, are addressing chronic absenteeism, and how collaborative approaches with community organizations are being implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism and improve daily school attendance. This research will provide a practical understanding of how schools can find solutions for absenteeism and build coalitions with community organizations to address issues affecting students, including absenteeism.