All About Chronic Absenteeism & How Online School Can Help Prevent It

5 min to read
A high school student in a tan shirt listens to an online lesson from Connections Academy.

Chronic student absenteeism is a growing issue for students. The impact skipping school can have on a student’s learning journey can be catastrophic, but chronic absenteeism can be symptomatic of deeper issues that may stop students from doing their best in school. 

Chronic absenteeism can be frustrating to both students and parents, and missing school can be damaging to students’ literacy levels, math skills, and overall well-being. Luckily, there are ways to reduce chronic absenteeism. 

What is Chronic Absenteeism?

Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses ten percent or more of school days throughout the school year for any reason. Chronic absenteeism is different than truancy because truancy only counts unexcused absences whereas chronic absenteeism includes excused absences, unexcused absences, and suspensions.

Research finds that chronic absenteeism can damage students’ reading proficiency, cause students to struggle with coursework, and knock high school students off track from graduating on time or at all.

Why Students are Missing School

The common reasons why students are missing school fall into four categories: aversion, barrier, disengagement, and misconception. To prevent chronic absenteeism, we need to understand each of these four categories.


Aversion refers to a strong dislike of school to the point where the student wants to avoid going to school. These feelings of aversion can stem from:

  • Academic or behavioral struggles

  • Difficult and/or unwelcoming school atmosphere

  • Lack of disability accommodations and resources

  • Mental health struggles (such as anxiety)

  • Social difficulties (such as bullying)


Barriers are when something outside of the student’s control prevents them from attending school or accessing the resources they need to succeed in school. Barriers may include:

  • Community or family violence

  • Familial responsibilities taking precedence over going to school

  • Food and housing insecurity 

  • Illness

  • Lack of access to services or accommodations

  • Lack of transportation to school

  • Trauma 


Disengagement can refer to a student not engaging with academic material. When students aren’t engaged in school, then they may fall into a cycle of not caring about school as much as they should (or would like to), then doing poorly in school, which makes them care less about school, and so on and so forth. Causes of disengagement may include:

  • Feeling academically overwhelmed

  • Feeling like they don’t “belong” in school 

  • Lack of academic support and resources

  • Lack of meaningful relationships with classmates and teachers

  • Lack of opportunities 


Misconceptions refer to incorrect beliefs that students or parents have about chronic absenteeism. Some common misconceptions are:

  • A few absences a month won’t hurt the student

  • Attendance does not matter in earlier grades

  • If an absence is excused, it is fine 

  • Suspensions don’t count as absences

A student using a laptop to reduce chronic absenteeism through online school. 

How to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism

1. Communicate with your student, their teachers, and their guidance counselor.

Ask your student questions about school—what do they like, what do they dislike, who are their friends, do they dislike anyone, what is their favorite subject, what is their least favorite subject, etc. The more information you can gather, the better you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on with your student. Ask a mix of questions regarding both the positive and negative aspects of school so that you get a big picture idea of your student’s school life. The key here is not to make your student feel attacked. You’re not judging; you’re merely gathering information. 
Also, communicate with your student’s teachers and counselor. What do they see that you may not? Has there been a recent decline in your student’s grades and attendance or has this been an ongoing issue? 

2. Find ways to engage your student in school.

When student doesn’t feel invested in school, then they may skip school. Having them participate in sports where they must maintain a certain GPA or join an extracurricular club or group activity can give your student the motivation to keep going to school. Having a purpose outside of classes may also help your student build meaningful relationships with their classmates and trusted adults, which is key in preventing chronic absenteeism. 

3. Identify the issue and develop a plan.

Sometimes, a student disengages from school when they don’t feel challenged by the academic material or when they feel academically overwhelmed. Work with your student’s teachers and counselors to see where your student may be struggling with school. See what accommodations, resources, and individualization are available for your student.

4. Stay involved with your child and their education.

Being involved can alert you to when your student may be experiencing challenges that make them want to avoid school. Also, as a parent, you can be your child’s advocate and help them get the resources they need to stay in school.

5. Keep school a priority.

If families do not see school as a priority, then students may fall into chronic absenteeism. While some absences cannot be avoided, such as days missed to attend medical appointments, parents should analyze if all the days their student misses are necessary. Keep track of missed days—excused or not—and be sure to schedule any prolonged absences during school breaks if you can.

How Online School Can Help Beat Chronic Absenteeism

Sometimes, chronic absenteeism may be best addressed by placing the student in a different learning environment that can better meet their needs, such as transferring them to an online school like Connections Academy.

Connections Academy-supported schools have the benefit of allowing caregivers more participation in their child’s education compared to many brick-and-mortar schools. Also, online school is great for students who need scheduling flexibility, such as students who need to attend medical appointments during traditional school hours or need other accommodations that require them to be frequently absent during the school day. 

If your student is experiencing chronic absenteeism, then use this guide to help you understand the reasons why they may be skipping school and feel free to reach out to Connections Academy® to see if online school is right for you.

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