Being able to answer this question is more important than ever. A new analysis of national chronic absence data for the 2019-20 and 2018-19 school years shows that answering this question in a timely manner is not so easy, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
National chronic absence data helps everyone to understand the scale, scope and concentration of the attendance challenge before us. It allows us to identify the need to address challenges or the needs of particular populations that cut across district or state lines. It makes it more possible to set realistic expectations for school and district improvements by creating a context for interpreting local and state data.
While attendance data is taken daily in schools, most state departments of education do not typically collect that information from districts until the summer after the end of a school year. States submit the data to EDFacts, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) initiative, in the winter of the following school year. The ED typically releases the data nearly two years after it was collected at the local level.
What Does the New Data Show?
Covid-19 has made examining national data even more complicated. In early 2022, ED released the most recent chronic absence data available, for school year 2018-19 and school year 2019-20, through the Ed Data Express website. Unlike prior releases, this data only included information by district, not school.