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Close to 10 Percent of Mississippi Public Schools Report Extreme Rates of Chronic Absence Among Students

September 7, 2017

JACKSON, Miss – Close to 10 percent of Mississippi’s public schools report extreme chronic absence rates, with close to a third of students missing 15 percent or more of the school year, according to a national analysis released September 1. 


Across Mississippi, 88 of 902 schools report that 30 percent or more of students are chronically absent. The percentage of Mississippi schools with an extreme chronic absence rate mirrors the national rate of 11 percent. An additional 132 Mississippi schools report 20-29 percent of students are chronically absent. At such high levels, all students in the classroom are affected when teachers have to deal with the churn of sporadic attendance.


The chronic absence analysis, “Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence,” was released by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center. 


The report used data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which defines chronic absence as missing 15 percent or more of the academic year (180 days) for any reason, including excused and unexcused absences, suspensions, and time missed due to changing schools. Chronic absence is different from Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which show the average percentage of students who are present over a snapshot of time.


“Missing too many days of school for any reason puts children at risk academically and can translate into a child who can’t read by the end of third grade, fails courses in middle school and eventually drops out of high school,” explains Hedy N. Chang, Executive Director of Attendance Works.


Many children, especially in the early grades, miss too much school because of chronic health problems, unreliable transportation or housing moves — barriers that state and city agencies and community partners can help families address.


“The research is clear about the link between chronic absence and student achievement. If children are not in school, they are not learning,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Parents, school and communities need to work together to ensure that students are attending and staying engaged in school every day.”


“Portraits of Change,” by Hedy N. Chang and Robert Balfanz, profiles examples of attendance initiatives found throughout the country that show how chronic absence can be turned around, even when it reaches high levels in a school or district or among a particular student population. The report also shares how partners such as businesses, nonprofits and local governments can team up with educators and add support and resources.


Released in connection with Attendance Awareness Month in September, the report relied on the latest federal data available to show that high levels of chronic absence can be found in schools throughout the country regardless of setting: rural, town, suburban and urban districts. The absence levels are significantly higher, however, in schools with larger percentages of low-income students.

“Portraits of Change” press contacts:
Catherine Cooney 


Adam Bradley 

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist