Trends in student absenteeism
From 1994 to 2017, the percentage of eighth-grade students who reported that they were absent from school for three or more days in the last month was relatively stable, in the range of 19 percent to 22 percent. However, among fourth-grade students, this percentage increased from 18 percent in 1994 to 24 percent in 2017, with the single biggest rise (of 5 percent) observed in 2017 (19 percent in 2015 versus 24 percent in 2017). For the first time since 1994, a higher proportion of fourth graders than eighth graders reported absenteeism in 2017. In this year, these percentages for students in both grades reached historic highs (Figure 1).
The 2017 increase in the percentage of students reporting missing three or more days of school applied to fourth- and eighth-grade students, and to most subgroups; an exception was eighth graders attending schools in which 26 to 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, with absenteeism dropping slightly from 2015 to 2017 (from 18 to 17 percent; Appendices 1 & 2).
At eighth grade, the percentage of black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic students who reported missing three or more days of school decreased from 1994 to 2015 (from 27 percent for each group in 1994 to 23 and 20 percent, respectively, in 2015). In 2017, however, these shares increased to 24 percent for black, non-Hispanic students, and 23 percent for Hispanic students (Appendix 2). Among fourth-grade students, absenteeism remained relatively stable between 1994 and 2015. However, from 2015 to 2017, absenteeism increased among black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic fourth graders, rising from 23 to 29 percent, and from 21 to 26 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).