For Immediate Release: August 16, 2023
MDE recognizing September as Attendance Awareness month to help combat chronic absenteeism in schools
JACKSON, Miss. – In recognition of September as Attendance Awareness Month, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) is sharing information to promote school attendance and reduce absenteeism.
MDE’s Every School Day Counts - Attend to Achieve campaign highlights the benefits of regular school attendance and emphasizes ways to prevent students from being chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year, which translates to 18 days in a total year or an average of two days a month, excused or unexcused.
MDE’s campaign is part of a national effort to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools. The MDE started bringing attention to the issue of chronic absenteeism in 2015 by reporting statewide chronic absenteeism data and educating school and district educators and leaders about the issue. In September 2018, the MDE launched its first chronic absenteeism and attendance awareness campaign, which helped reduce the statewide chronic absenteeism rate from 16.9% in the 2016-17 school year to 13.1% in 2018-19.
The most recent report shows that 28% of Mississippi students were absent 18 days or more during the 2021-22 school year. Attendance Works reports at least 10.1 million students nationwide were chronically absent in 2021-22. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the increased statewide and national rates.
Chronic absence differs from average daily attendance (ADA), which is the average number of enrolled students who attend school each day. A school’s ADA does not reveal how many students are chronically absent. A school can have an ADA of 95 percent or higher while having a chronic absence rate greater than 10 percent.
MDE’s Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement and Dropout Prevention is responsible for ensuring all Mississippi public school students attend school. School attendance officers (SAO) work out of this office to connect with families and help them eliminate barriers to school attendance.
In July 2023, office staff held a roundtable discussion with a group of SAOs, school administrators and youth court judges to get feedback on chronic absenteeism solutions. The office staff will work with school and community leaders throughout the school year to seek ways to mitigate chronic absenteeism.
“The long-term, adverse academic effects of chronic absenteeism have been well researched. Students need to be in school to achieve, so we must address the underlying issues that cause them to be chronically absent,” said Dr. Ray Morgigno, interim state superintendent. “With the collective efforts of schools, communities and parents, we can leverage resources to get more students back in the classroom.”
MDE is encouraging all education stakeholders and community organizations to help spread awareness on this topic and consider implementing programs to reduce student absenteeism and promote attendance. Chronic absenteeism posters will be sent to school districts by Aug. 31, so districts can distribute them to schools and local organizations for awareness. Other resources, including downloadable materials, can be accessed at mdek12.org/attend.
Find all MDE news releases at mdek12.org/news.