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MDE Attendance Awareness Campaign Combats Chronic Absenteeism

JPS encourages students to "Strive for Less than Five" absences, whether excused or unexcused - JPS ITV on YouTube

MDE’s Every School Day Counts - Attend to Achieve campaign highlights the benefits of regular school attendance and emphasizes ways to prevent students from being chronically absent. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year, which translates to 18 days in a total year or an average of two days a month, excused or unexcused.

MDE’s campaign is part of a national effort to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools. The MDE started bringing attention to the issue of chronic absenteeism in 2015 by reporting statewide chronic absenteeism data and educating school and district educators and leaders about the issue. In September 2018, the MDE launched its first chronic absenteeism and attendance awareness campaign, which helped reduce the statewide chronic absenteeism rate from 16.9% in the 2016-17 school year to 13.1% in 2018-19.

The most recent report shows that 28% of Mississippi students were absent 18 days or more during the 2021-22 school year.Attendance Works reports at least 10.1 million students nationwide were chronically absent in 2021-22. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the increased statewide and national rates.

Chronic absence differs from average daily attendance (ADA), which is the average number of enrolled students who attend school each day. A school’s ADA does not reveal how many students are chronically absent. A school can have an ADA of 95 percent or higher while having a chronic absence rate greater than 10 percent.

MDE’s Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement and Dropout Prevention is responsible for ensuring all Mississippi public school students attend school. School attendance officers (SAO) work out of this office to connect with families and help them eliminate barriers to school attendance.

In July 2023, office staff held a roundtable discussion with a group of SAOs, school administrators and youth court judges to get feedback on chronic absenteeism solutions. The office staff will work with school and community leaders throughout the school year to seek ways to mitigate chronic absenteeism.

“The long-term, adverse academic effects of chronic absenteeism have been well researched. Students need to be in school to achieve, so we must address the underlying issues that cause them to be chronically absent,” said Dr. Ray Morgigno, interim state superintendent. “With the collective efforts of schools, communities and parents, we can leverage resources to get more students back in the classroom.”