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Michigan School Attendance Gains Are Tops in the Nation, Report Shows

Chronic Absenteeism Rate Improves Most Among
42 States Releasing Data

LANSING, MI – Michigan led the United States in recovering from pandemic-related increases in chronic school absenteeism, according to data cited in a national report released this week.

Chronic absenteeism fell 7.7 percentage points during the 2022-23 school year compared to the year before, the biggest improvement from among 42 states and the District of Columbia that have released 2022-23 absenteeism data, the think tank FutureEd at Georgetown University found. Chronic absenteeism for a student is defined as missing 10% or more of the school year (roughly two school days a month) for any reason.

That data is cited in a report about chronic absenteeism released this week by the nonprofit group Attendance Works.

“Hard work by Michigan schools has paid off, which has generated a significant reduction in chronic absenteeism,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice. “Children need to attend school regularly to learn, to graduate, to be able to continue into postsecondary education, and to pursue their dreams. While we have much work that remains to be done on attendance, today’s news is a welcome acknowledgment of the efforts of educators, support staff, parents, and students themselves.”

Local school districts have engaged in myriad efforts to improve attendance rates as they emerged from the pandemic and the associated challenges including, but not limited to, calls to parents, conferences with families, mental health interventions, and even door-to-door outreach to visit students’ homes to help reacclimate children to coming to school more frequently.

Among the school districts with improved attendance was Warren Consolidated Schools, where the chronic absenteeism rate went from 43.5% in 2021-22 to 36.5% the following school year. Superintendent Dr. Robert Livernois said there were several factors in the Warren district’s progress, including an emphasis on meeting the social-emotional needs of students at school.

“We implemented a social-emotional learning curriculum as an outgrowth of the pandemic to provide very specific supports to students and families, knowing that these types of supports were lacking due to the pandemic,” he said. “Given the duration of the pandemic, I think many families and students wanted to get back to the brick-and-mortar setting because of the social and emotional supports that our schools provide. Some of our children had started kindergarten at the kitchen table.”

Michigan’s provision of universal free breakfast being made available at schools also is a factor in improved attendance, Dr. Livernois said, as well as the desire for children to be able to interact with other people. “We were able to maintain all of our programs and services largely due to the support we received from the state in terms of funding,” he said. “We were able to maintain counselors and social workers and things like that in our school.”

In addition to the impactful efforts by local school districts, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has aided local school districts in a variety of ways. Efforts have included:

  • Using strategies based on research to meet the individual needs of the whole child at all achievement levels through what’s called Michigan’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports. These strategies interconnect the education, health, and human services systems to support successful learners, schools, centers, and community outcomes.
  • Implementing an early intervention dropout prevention program called the Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System that MDE provides to schools. This system is a seven-step process of examining data and making decisions about supports and interventions to help students get back on track for graduation and success. MDE trains and certifies coaches who provide intervention and monitoring training across the state.
  • Participating in Attendance Works’ national project to support local districts in addressing chronic absenteeism using action research.

Chronic absenteeism in Michigan dropped from 38.5% to 30.8%.

“Improving school attendance is a key to meeting Goal 5 of Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan, to increase the percentage of students who graduate from high school,” said Dr. Delsa Chapman, deputy superintendent of the MDE Division of Assessment, School Improvement, and Systems Support. “Michigan has improved its graduation rates following the pandemic at the same time as chronic absenteeism has gone down.”

Michigan graduation rates in 2023 were higher for all 17 student categories tracked than the year before, according to the Center for Educational Performance and Information that shares data at MISchoolData. In 13 of 17 categories, the graduation rates were higher than they were before the pandemic.

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