When Students Miss School: The High Cost to Houston

The interrelationship between school attendance and literacy may seem intuitive, but many people are simply not aware of how pervasive chronic absence (defined as missing 10 percent of school – that’s nearly a month – for any reason) is in Houston and the high price that’s paid when students miss school. This month we take in-depth look at the problem of chronic absence in Houston, examines its impact, and offers practical strategies towards a community solution.

Just how pervasive is chronic absence in Houston? According to HISD’s attendance data for the 2014-2015 school year, approximately 21,400 or 9.3 percent of the nearly 231,000 children who were enrolled any time in the district were chronically absent, just slightly below the national average of between 10 to 15 percent. Research is clear that chronic absence has a negative impact on student achievement, high school graduation and college attainment rates, and ultimately impacts the social and economic vitality of individuals, families and communities. In fact, research shows that chronic absence is as strong a predictor of dropouts as is test scores.

Our special report analyzes chronic absence at each grade level, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and combination of these, as well as provides chronic absence rates for every school in the district. We also compare performance on the State of Texas reading achievement exams for chronic absence students and students with more regular attendance by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status in every grade, 3 through 8 and at the high school level.

Finally, a new law in Texas places more responsibility on school districts to prevent chronic absence. We contend that chronic absence cannot be solved by school districts by themselves Rather, it requires a community solution. Learn about our proposed, evidenced based strategies to ensure that more Houston children attend school on a regular basis and have a fighting chance at graduating on time, college and career ready.