Attendance & School Engagement

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Attendance has been increasingly the focus of attention among school divisions and educators. According to research, regular attendance is a significant factor in a student’s success:

  • Chronic absenteeism correlates to low academic achievement;
  • Absenteeism is a powerful predictor of dropout rates;
  • Absenteeism has been linked to poor outcomes later in life.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing ten percent or more of the academic year for any reason, including excused absences, unexcused absences, and suspensions. Based on a 180-day school year, that means approximately 18 days per year or 2 to 3 days per month.

Truancy is the act of accruing one or more unexcused absences, where the parent is unaware of or does not support the student’s absence, or where the parent’s provided reason for the absence is not acceptable to the school administration.

Missed instruction, regardless of the reason, can have significant academic consequences. Therefore, the broader emphasis is on improving attendance for every student.

Addressing Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic Absenteeism Task Force

Dr. Coons' statewide chronic absenteeism task force has shared videos and discussion guides to support school divisions in improving attendance.

Attendance Teams

A best practice for shifting to the chronic absenteeism lens (as opposed to a focus on truancy) is the creation of attendance teams at the school level and division level. This can be a new team or folded into another team (VTSS, Climate, Leadership, etc.).

Attendance Works, which is a leading non-profit organization focused on reducing chronic absenteeism, created tip sheets for division level attendance teams and school level attendance teams.

Attendance teams can determine their strengths and areas for growth by participating in a division level assessment and a school level assessment.

Attendance teams should promote a culture of attendance and intentionally plan attendance-related activities to occur throughout the school year. For sample templates and planning calendars, refer to the Attendance Works Year-Long Planning Tools.

A Multi-Tiered Approach for Improving Attendance

Attendance teams should lead schools in selecting strategies to improve attendance. An impactful technique to reduce chronic absenteeism is to partner with families. It is also important for schools to recognize good and improved attendance.

Other whole-school strategies to improve attendance focus on creating a welcoming environment.  Resources to support a positive school climate include Relationship Mapping and Warm Welcomes.

As attendance teams review school-wide and student-level data, some students will need more individualized support. Strategies to provide extra support to identified students include the 2 x 10 strategy, mentoring, and student support plans. For additional evidence-based strategies regarding reducing chronic absenteeism, please visit the Attendance Playbook.

Virginia Code and Regulations

Virginia Code and regulations relevant to attendance and absenteeism include the following:

  • Code of Virginia §22.1-254 addresses compulsory attendance and exemptions to compulsory attendance.
  • Code of Virginia § 22.1-258 addresses truancy and the intervention process.
  • Chapter 730 of the Administrative Code of Virginia consists of three sections:
    • 8VAC-20-730-10 establishes definitions as it relates to the attendance policies and the collection and reporting of truancy.
    • 8VAC-20-730-20 establishes the unexcused absence intervention process and responsibilities.
    • 8VAC-20-730-30 establishes data collection and reporting requirements.


Organization Websites

Information and Data

Toolkits and Resources


Ginsburg, A., Jordan, P., and Chang., H. (August 2014). Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success. Retrieved from