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Guidelines for Reporting Regular Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

Introduction and Background

On January 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) approved Pennsylvania's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated State Plan. ESSA presents an opportunity to broaden conceptions of school performance to include increased attention to student success and learning conditions, including the importance of regular school attendance. Research indicates there is a positive and statistically significant relationship between student attendance and academic achievement and other student outcomes (Hein et al., 2013; Chang and Romero, 2008; Allensworth et al., 2014; Balfanz et al., 2007).  Nationally, over six million students were chronically absent from school during the 2013-2014 school year, representing 14 percent of all students.

This document provides guidance on the chronic absenteeism measure included in Pennsylvania's federal accountability plan; this same measure is reported at the school and student group levels via the Regular Attendance indicator on the Future Ready PA Index.  Specifically, the guidelines establish procedures for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and school administrators to submit absence-related data to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) that accurately reflect student attendance and are consistent with child accounting and federal accountability policies.

For more information on attendance coding, please see the Pennsylvania Student Information Management System (PIMS) user manual.


Chronic Absenteeism is calculated for all public schools with 20 or more students based on the number of students who have missed more than 10 percent of enrolled school days across the academic year. Enrollment of fewer than 90 days of school will exclude a student from that school's calculation as there has not been sufficient opportunity for the school to apply intervention strategies.

Chronic Absenteeism calculations are derived from existing data collections by the Department.  Rates of Chronic Absenteeism are reported as "Regular Attendance" on the Future Ready PA Index, and are calculated at the building level, as well as for any group of 20 or more students in a building. Regular Attendance is a lagging indicator based on reporting schedules and validations procedures; in other words, one full school year separates the most recent period for reporting and the publication of school and student group data.

A student is considered absent if they are not physically participating in instruction or instruction-related activities on school grounds or at an approved off-grounds location. Chronically absent students include students who are absent regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused; whatever the reason for the absence, instructional hours are lost.

For example, out of school suspensions and excused absences for approved family-sponsored educational trips would be coded as absences for purposes of chronic absenteeism and regular attendance measures.  

ABSENT (Examples)PRESENT (Examples)
  • Absence from school (excused or unexcused)
  • Out-of-School Suspension
  • Extended illness (not coded homebound)
  • Bereavement
  • Non-school sponsored approved educational trips
  • College visits not part of curriculum or course expectations
  • Career Education and Work experiences sponsored by the school entity
  • In-school Suspension
  • Homebound Instruction
  • School-sponsored field-trips or college visits


LEAs should review their locally-developed attendance policies and work with Student Information System (SIS) vendors to ensure compliance with reporting requirements for both federal ESSA accountability and PA regu​latory requirements.

When establishing local policy, it is important to consider that LEAs report aggregate counts of days enrolled and days present in PIMS. The LEA, through the use of its SIS, determines how local attendance data is aggregated. Missed hours, periods, or fractions of days may be handled differently by each LEA.  For example, consider a student enrolled for 180 days, who is ¼-day late on four occasions. If the LEA considers a student present for the day when the student attends at least half the day, the student would be present 180 days. If the LEA considers the total time present (or absent), the student would be present 179 days (4 x ¼-day = 1 full day). Therefore, depending on local policy, ESSA accountability indicators (Chronic Absenteeism/Regular Attendance) may be calculated with equivalent days.

 Accordion ‭[2]‬

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 Accordion ‭[1]‬

Expand AllClick here for a more accessible version

​Frequently Asked Questions