Nearly one ⁠i⁠n four S.C. s⁠t⁠uden⁠t⁠s chron⁠i⁠cally absen⁠t⁠ las⁠t⁠ year  

February 18, 2024

Bryce Fiedler

CALN Founding Member & CALN Board of Directors Secretary

Last month, CALN shed light on one state’s battle with chronic absenteeism—defined by a student missing 10% or more days during the school year. While our report highlighted Indiana as somewhat of an extreme case, where some districts reported chronic absence rates exceeding 60%, this is far from an isolated issue.  

On Feb. 12, new reporting put the matter in perspective for South Carolina. A staggering 22.5% of Palmetto State students were chronically absent during the 2022-23 school year, according to The Post and Courier. Although this marks a slight improvement over the prior year, absences remain high compared to pre-pandemic levels.  

Some education leaders see an uphill battle. They know that missing too much school is detrimental to learning, especially for young children who are still developing core skills like math and reading. And once students fall behind, it can be hard for them to catch up, leading some to feel discouraged and further detached from school. It’s a “vicious cycle,” as the Post and Courier writes.

At the same time, absenteeism is no easy problem to solve and is often compounded by outside factors. A student’s home life, parental involvement, and economic situation can all impact school attendance. In South Carolina, districts with the highest poverty levels often report the highest absenteeism rates, according to the article.  

Evidently, some believe that raising parental awareness is key. The Post and Courier reports: 

Parents often underestimate how often their kids miss school, Liu said, so just sending letters or texts to parents about their student’s attendance issues can be effective, particularly when schools can catch the issues before they spiral into chronic absenteeism.  

“I think if you ask any parent, they would say education is important,” Cobb said, adding that she doesn’t know if parents always fully understand the true impact that missing school days can have on their kids. 

State and local leaders have big roles to play too. The S.C. Department of Education is reportedly working with a national nonprofit to train teachers and staff on how to assist students who are close to becoming chronically absent. The strategy could be effective at keeping kids in school and providing the help they need.