Chronic Absenteeism

Students Do Not Learn When They Are Not in School

Student at schoolChronic absenteeism—when a student misses ten percent or more of school days for any reason (excused or unexcused absences)—is linked to poor grades and dropout. Research shows that chronic absenteeism increases a student’s risk of academic failure and is an early predictor of high school dropout.1 Nationally, one in ten kindergarten and first grade students misses a full month of school in a single year, and the rates of chronic absenteeism in middle and high schools are even higher.2 Supports and strategies that reduce chronic absenteeism are important for students’ educational outcomes.

School-Based Health Centers Can Help Schools Reduce Absence

Because chronic absenteeism is the result of complex mental, physical, and family health issues, school-based health centers (SBHCs) can play an integral part in strategically addressing attendance problems. SBHC staff can collaborate with school staff members to identify and support students with unmet health needs so they can re-engage with school.

SBHCs can provide health care to students in the school who would otherwise be sent home or to a provider outside of the school, helping to reduce chronic absenteeism rates due to health issues. Research has found many links to SBHCs and absenteeism, including: high school SBHC users in one 2000 study had a 50 percent decrease in absenteeism and 25 percent decrease in tardiness two months after receiving school-based mental health and counseling.3 A study of SBHC users in Seattle found that those who use the clinic for medical purposes had a significant increase in attendance over nonusers.4  African-American male SBHC users were three times more likely to stay in school than their peers who did not use the SBHC.5 SBHCs in The Bronx, NY, reduced hospitalization and increased school attendance among school children with asthma.6 A quasi-experimental study in New York observed that students not enrolled in an SBHC lost three times as much seat time as students enrolled in a SBHC.7

(1) Attendance Works:
(2) Ibid.
(3) Gall G, Pagano ME, Desmond MS, Perrin JM, Murphy JM. Utility of Psychosocial Screening at a School-Based Health Center. Journal of School Health. Sep 2000;70(7):292-298.
(4) Walker SC, Kerns SE, Lyon AR, Bruns EJ, Cosgrove TJ. Impact of School-Based Health Center use on academic outcomes. The Journal of Adolescent Health. Mar 2010;46(3):251-257.
(5) McCord MT, Klein JD, Foy JM, Fothergill K. School-based clinic use and school performance. The Journal of Adolescent Health. Mar 1993;14(2):91-98.
(6) Webber MP, Carpiniello KE, Oruwariye T, Lo Y, Burton WB, Appel DK. Burden of Asthma in Inner-City Elementary School Children: Do School-Based Health Centers Make a Difference? Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Feb 2003;157(2):125-129.
(7) Van Cura M. The relationship between school-based health centers, rates of early dismissal from school, and loss of seat time. Journal of School Health. Aug 2010;80(8):371-377.