Best practices for states to address health related chronic school absences

A recent National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE) Policy Update looks at the impact of health on chronic absences and what states can do to address this issue. Chronic absences from school can severely set back academic learning and is considered an early warning sign of school dropout[1]. Untreated health conditions are the leading causes of chronic absences, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted that chronic absence was a better predictor of school failure than test scores and urged pediatricians to work with schools to reduce its incidence.[2] Students who experience poverty are more likely to experience chronic illness and less likely able to make up for their school absences.

NASBE looks to California, New Jersey, and Connecticut for ways state board of education can play a key role in addressing the health-related drivers of chronic absence. These states are confronting the issue by asking key questions, supporting a culture of attendance, promoting the use of actionable data, building state capacity and leveraging funding to address health-related issues among students, and sharing accountability for chronic school absences and including non-education state agencies.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) works with both superintendents and school boards of education to impact policy changes that support school readiness and success. For example, ACS works closely with The Ohio 8 Coalition, a coalition of the eight largest school districts in Ohio, which embeds clinics or clinicians in the schools to address non-academic and health needs of students and families. ACS also partners with NASBE to engage state boards of education to influence early childhood policies that consider the whole child, birth through age eight, and their impact on later school success.




[1] Alan Ginsburg et al., “Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success” (Attendance Works, August 2014).

[2] Mandy A. Allison and Elliott Attisha, “The Link between School Attendance and Good Health,” Pediatrics 143, no. 2 (Itasca, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019).

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