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New Study on Chronic Absenteeism


A recent study on chronic absenteeism by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity – the organization that famously won New York’s students the constitutional right to a sound basic education in the 1993 case CFE v. State of New York – has brought to light important new data regarding student achievement. Isolating other variables such as language barriers and poverty, the study found that chronic absenteeism is a strong indicator of both low student achievement and eventual drop-out from school. The report was highlighted in a New York Times article on chronic absenteeism in New York City, where targeted efforts over the past several years to address the problem – largely as a result of the report, Strengthening Schools by Strengthening Families, by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School - appear to be paying off.

Last year, the number of elementary schools where 30% or more of students were chronically late was half what it had been three years earlier; this year 1 in 15 children was absent from school on any given day, down from 1 in 9 in 1993. According to the results of the CFE’s study, these payoffs – achieved through a variety of innovative efforts, such as prizes for perfect attendance and automated wake-up calls from celebrities – are not just ensuring that kids are in school when they’re supposed to be: they are also helping to boost test scores, narrow the achievement gap, and prevent drop-outs.

Comparing New York City schools, the study found a strong relationship between high rates of chronic absenteeism – missing at least 10% of the school-year for both unexcused and excused absences – and lower performance on statewide tests. Low-income kindergartners with chronic absenteeism showed consistently lower achievement levels in reading and math by fifth grade; The targeted efforts in New York City, through vehicles such as community schools, are helping students across the demographic spectrum increase their attendance, and with it their achievement in school. The city has realized that increasing test scores is unrealizable without addressing factors such as these; with any luck, their success will inspire other school districts across the nation to follow en suite.

To read CFE’s study click here.

To read the New York Times article click here.

To learn more about the issue of chronic absence, visit:

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