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Chronic absenteeism hits all-time high in Mississippi schools

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Chronic absenteeism has hit an all-time high in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE).

During the 2021-2022 school year, chronic absenteeism rose to a 28 percent average across the state, showing the highest numbers since the MDE first began tracking absence data in 2016. In total, 128,275 Mississippi public school students were chronically absent, which is an increase of 33,186 students from the previous school year.

According to the MDE, chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent — or 18 days — of the school year for any reason, which includes excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. Chronic absence differs from Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which is the average number of enrolled students who attend school each day. Each school’s ADA often masks issues surrounding the number of students who are chronically absent.

Out of the K-5 elementary schools, chronic absenteeism rate was highest for kindergarten at 28.4 percent. The chronic absenteeism rate in middle school was highest in grade 8 at 29.6 percent and highest in high school in grade 12 at 45.3 percent.

“Higher than normal chronic absenteeism numbers are not unique to Mississippi following the pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Taylor, state superintendent of education. “Now more than ever, it is imperative that MDE and all educational stakeholders develop and implement strategies to get students back in school and on track to achieve academic and career success.”

The MDE will relaunch a statewide attendance awareness campaign in June. The campaign is designed to challenge students and school districts to reduce individual absences to no more than five absences in a school year and was initially launched in September 2018. Mississippi’s campaign is part of a national movement to reduce chronic absenteeism. Before the pandemic, Mississippi’s chronic absenteeism rate fell to 13% in 2018-19.

Click here to see the full chronic absenteeism report for Mississippi, which includes the highest and lowest rates among schools and districts.

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