A student is considered chronically absent if they miss 10% or more school days during the academic year. Last year in Indiana, half of students across 84 schools met that definition—and districts in Gary and Muncie reported chronic absence rates of more than 70% and 60%, respectively. The data comes from a new report by The 74, which found comparatively high absenteeism in the Hoosier State. It also revealed how state education leaders are trying to address the issue.
Students in early elementary school and high school were reported as having the highest absenteeism rates, described by The 74 as “an inverted bell curve.” However, they note that attendance is an issue affecting students across the K-12 spectrum. In 2019, for example, 22% of Indiana fourth graders were chronically absent. In 2022, that figure jumped to 35%. That’s concerning for a grade where students are still developing early-age literacy skills.
Last October, the Indiana Department of Education previewed a new “early warning dashboard” to help educators and parents identify students who are at risk of not graduating. It will rely on attendance data and other factors like test scores to make its determinations. Still in development, the dashboard will become available to all Indiana schools in the 2024-25 academic year.
The 74 explains:
The dashboard reflects Indiana’s shifting view of absenteeism, Jenner, the state education secretary, said. Rather than looking at school-site data, the dashboard focuses on individual students. Learning outcomes and attendance data will be posted for each student, to help teachers and families keep track.
“That will be telling, for parents and families,” she said. “They can see early on if their child is chronically absent and what impact that is having.”
It’s not immediately clear what the implications for student privacy might be with such a tool. However, if handled carefully, Indiana’s approach to reporting could be an option for other states that are grappling with chronic absenteeism.