Giving Compass' Take:

• The author explains the various causes of chronic absenteeism in U.S. schools, which makes it more difficult for one unified approach to solving this issue. 

• How are educators and philanthropists working together to address absenteeism? How could education technology help this problem?

• Read about these eight steps to prevent chronic absenteeism. 

Desks in classrooms all across the country are routinely empty. It’s not due to a lack of funding or declining enrollment, but to the fact that students simply aren’t showing up.

The most recent federal data suggest more than 1 in 7 students are chronically absent from our public schools. It’s a widespread problem: At least a dozen schools in nearly every state report more than 20 percent of students are chronically absent.

Chronic absenteeism is a relatively new measure the federal government and states have started to track. Unlike truancy, it denotes missing school for any reason, excused or unexcused. But there is no universally agreed-upon threshold. The national think tank Attendance Works, which defines chronic absenteeism as missing at least 10 percent of school days in a given year, views it as an early indicator of more serious trouble. “Chronic absence is an alert,” says Hedy Chang, the group’s executive director, “that a kid is at risk, or a school is struggling and needs more resources.”

There are big disparities among different regions of the country. Federal data for the 2015-2016 school year indicate that more than one-fifth of students were chronically absent in seven states: Alaska, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. Meanwhile, only about a tenth of students in Vermont and North Dakota were chronically absent.

Missing school sets students back academically. Average reading and math scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress show a drop-off for students missing significant amounts of school in virtually all demographic groups.

Given the varying reasons why students are absent, there’s no universal approach to solving the problem. Districts have pursued a range of targeted interventions, from hiring caseworkers to, in rare instances, taking parents to court.

Read the full article about chronic absenteeism by Mike Maciag at Governing magazine