AttendaNCe Counts! New Report Outlines State of Chronic Absence in North Carolina

Interest in chronic absence as an indicator of school quality and student success has exploded across the country in recent months. Two-thirds of states included chronic absence as a metric in their recently-submitted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. North Carolina did not include it as a metric in ESSA, but did note the importance of tracking chronic absence and other non-academic indicators of school quality and student success.

  • Why is chronic absence an effective metric?
  • What does chronic absence look like in North Carolina?
  • How ready is our state to begin putting policies and practices in place that can set the stage for school- and/or community-led reductions in chronic absence?

AttendaNCe Counts, a report by the NC Early Childhood Foundation, examines the state of the state around chronic absenteeism policies and practices in North Carolina. The report includes:

  • Why chronic absence matters for third grade reading and why addressing it is an actionable strategy for improving literacy outcomes
  • Why it is an effective measure of school quality and student success
  • Chronic absence rates in North Carolina, including data for each school district, disaggregated by race/ethnicity and gender
  • The current state-level landscape in North Carolina around nine key “readiness” factors that can set the stage for an active campaign to reduce chronic absence
  • Recommendations for next steps

Chronic absence was chosen as a priority for action by the stakeholders of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative, which is creating partnerships among the state’s early learning and education, public agency, policy, philanthropic and business leaders to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. A Regular Attendance Design Team is working to create a policy, practice, and capacity-building agenda to address chronic absence and will present its recommendations in spring 2018.

Background on the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative

North Carolina state leaders – working with a Data Action Team composed of 30 experts from North Carolina’s leading universities, research institutes, government agencies, and think tanks – identified shared birth-to-eight, whole-child measures of success to put children on a pathway to grade-level reading. Learning Teams then determined how North Carolina was doing on those measures and recommended where to move to action first. Chronic absence was one of the areas recommended and approved by Pathways Partners – a group of stakeholders more than 150 strong who guide the initiative’s work. The other two priority areas chosen for action first were children’s social-emotional health and high quality birth to eight education. Three Design Teams focused on these priority areas are co-creating agendas for change.

Pathways is an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.


We are grateful to the experts at Attendance Works for reviewing and commenting on this report. Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes better policy, practice and research around school attendance. Visit for resources and services for schools, school districts and states, such as attendance data collection tools, webinars, messaging materials and toolkits.