More than 1 million school days – this is the number lost during the 2015-16 school year due to chronic absenteeism. According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 8 million students (16% of all K-12 students nationwide) were reported chronically absent during that time period, defined as missing 10% or more of the year. This data point is one of the strongest early warning signs of poorer social-emotional outcomes, lower achievement and even school dropout. Too often, though, it is overlooked due to difficulty aggregating, interpreting and acting on attendance data at the student, school and district level.
Students are often absent for various reasons outside of their and educators’ control—such as illness, transportation challenges and family obligation. However, there are several factors that can be influenced by a child’s school, such as the learning environment, campus culture and student’s social-emotional skills.
Reducing absenteeism is one of the most significant opportunities for improving educational outcomes and closing achievement gaps. Panorama Education’s research and work with districts from across the country has revealed teachers and administrators are innovative when it comes to finding new ways to keep kids in school. Here are three strategies educators are embracing to reduce chronic absenteeism:
1. Understand the “why” behind absences
Understanding the “why” behind absences is essential for schools looking to improve attendance rates, and that starts with effectively tracking student progress across academics, behavior, and social-emotional learning. Panorama’s research has revealed that students with high SEL are half as likely to be chronically absent, and SEL correlates most with attendance among high school students who have more agency over whether to attend.
When educators focus on promoting relationships and SEL skills, students attend school more often, feel more connected to their learning, and succeed academically. In addition, research shows that students who lack meaningful social connections are at risk for

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