The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) released the most recent school- and district-level chronic absence data, which shows that 14.2 percent of Mississippi students were absent 10 percent or more of the time enrolled during the 2016-17 school year. The rate is slightly lower than the state’s first report of chronic absence in 2015, which revealed 15 percent of students were chronically absent in the 2013-14 school year.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of the time enrolled for any reason, which includes excused and unexcused absences and suspensions.
Similar to national trends, Mississippi’s chronic absenteeism rate is high in kindergarten (13.6 percent), tapers off in early elementary years, and increases steadily throughout the middle and high school. The rate peaks in grade 12 at 30.1 percent.
“There is a growing body of evidence that shows how chronic absence has a negative impact on student achievement,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Children who are not in school are not learning.”
Starting as early as preschool and kindergarten, chronic absence can leave 3rd graders unable to read proficiently, 6th graders struggling with coursework and high school students off track for graduation.
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 2016 Mississippi KIDS COUNT analysis found that among Mississippi school districts with an ADA of 95 percent or higher, over half had chronic absence rates greater than 10 percent.
The three districts with the highest chronic absenteeism rates are Forrest County Agricultural High School (26.4 percent), Natchez-Adams (25.6 percent) and Lumberton (24.8 percent).
Districts with the lowest chronic absenteeism rates are Hollandale (3.3 percent), Durant (4.7 percent) and Reimagine Prep (6.1 percent).
High schools with the highest rates are Vicksburg High School (62.2 percent) in the Vicksburg-Warren School District, and Jackson Public School District schools Wingfield High School (47.5 percent) and Lanier High School (45.3 percent).
High schools with the lowest rates are River City Early College High School (3.9 percent) in the Vicksburg-Warren School District, Golden Triangle Early College High School (4.1 percent) in the Lowndes County School District and Simmons High School (6.5 percent) in the Hollandale School District.
“One of the first steps school leaders can take to address this issue is to examine their data to identify the students who are struggling the most with chronic absenteeism,” Wright said. “Schools, parents and communities need to work together to make sure all children are attending school regularly.”