Happy students with good attendance

Educator’s Guide to Improving Student Attendance

May 28, 2024 • By Studies Weekly

Education in the United States has changed since the 2020 pandemic and still faces many lingering challenges due to the shutdown. One of the most pervasive issues is chronic student absenteeism. 

A student is considered chronically absent if they miss at least 10% of the total school year, around 18 full days. In 2023, 26% of all public school students in the United States were chronically absent with some states exceeding an alarming 40%. 

Why is Regular Student Attendance Important?

Teachers carefully prepare several hours of instruction daily. They plan lessons, activities, and assignments to teach skills across many disciplines. They also help their students develop essential life skills like self-motivation, cooperation, and problem-solving. The time that students spend in the classroom is full of teaching moments that do more than prepare them for homework; they also prepare them for higher education and life as responsible and productive adults. 

Every day is important. When students miss school, they miss hours of personalized instruction and opportunities to learn and play with their peers in a guided environment. 

The guided socialization students participate in school promotes social skills necessary for building positive relationships. 

Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) reports, “Guided socialization helps in emotional regulation, as children learn to manage their emotions and behaviors in a supportive setting, which is particularly beneficial for children who may struggle with self-control or experience social anxiety.”

Research also shows that one student’s poor attendance can affect the whole class. When students are chronically absent, their classmates’ attendance, reading, and math scores suffer. Absent classmates negatively impact all students, regardless of performance level. 

Student absenteeism is even tied to the rise in emotional and behavioral problems. Texas Superintendent Quintin Shepherd told the New York Times in a 2023 article,

“If kids are not here, they are not forming relationships,” he said. “If they are not forming relationships, we should expect there will be behavior and discipline issues. If they are not here, they will not be academically learning and will struggle. If they struggle with their coursework, you can expect violent behaviors.”

Student looking frustrated working on homework

How Can You Improve Student Attendance?

We all play a critical role in keeping our students in school. Parents, teachers, administrators, and even fellow students can all work together to improve student attendance.

Happy class of students with arms around each other

1. Identify the Reasons for Poor Attendance

In a time when mental health disorders are on the rise, and more parents can work remotely and stay home with their children, poor student attendance due to stress and anxiety is a natural consequence. 

In 2023, EducationWeek reported that 12 states accept mental or behavioral health challenges as a valid excuse for missing school. Occasional absences due to stress and anxiety are not unusual but may indicate that a student needs additional mental health support if it happens frequently. 

Trips, appointments, and sickness may also account for student absences. Teachers should first identify what keeps their students home from school to understand how to help best and decide whether their intervention is necessary.

2. Create a Supportive School Environment

One of the most impactful things a teacher can do to make a child feel excited to come to school is to help them feel love and belonging. Every child should know they play an important role in the classroom and are missed when absent. 

Teachers can foster a positive environment by greeting students warmly, decorating the classroom with inclusive messages, and establishing consistent routines. Specific practices such as a “welcome back” note or involving students in classroom activities immediately upon their return can make them feel valued and missed.

A personal student-teacher relationship can help students feel supported and loved at school. Teachers should also be mindful of whether all of their students feel included at recess and in group work and immediately address any bullying. 

Games, rewards, and activities can also give students something to work towards and help them feel excitement and anticipation about coming to school.

Teacher w/children in library

3. Involve Parents and Guardians

Improving student attendance is a collaborative effort that requires involvement from schools, teachers, and guardians. Keeping open lines of communication between these parties helps everyone work together as partners to monitor and improve attendance. 

Schools can also provide resources and education for guardians to explain the importance of their child’s regular attendance. 

Solving student absenteeism is a high priority. When students stay home, they miss valuable instruction time and opportunities to learn and practice many practical skills. One student’s absence also negatively impacts the motivation and performance of their peers. Student attendance is a growing issue in the United States and cannot be solved overnight, but helping even one child feel more excited about going to school makes a difference.


10 Ways to Create a Welcoming Classroom. Point Loma Nazarene University. (n.d.).

Blad, Evie. “High Absenteeism Hits More Schools, Affecting Students with Strong Attendance, Too.” Education Week. (Oct. 2023).

Carter, E. W., et al. Promoting Inclusion, Social Connections, and Learning Through Peer Support Arrangements. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 48(1), 9-18. (2015).

Gottfried, M. A. Chronic Absenteeism in the Classroom Context: Effects on Achievement. Urban Education, 54(1), 3-34. (2019).

Kirksey, J Jacob, et al. Absent Peers, Present Challenges: The Differential Impact of In-Person and Virtual Classmate Absences on Future Attendance. (2024).

Mervosh, Sarah, and Francesca Paris. Why School Absences Have ‘exploded’ Almost Everywhere. The New York Times. (Mar. 2024). 

Prothero, Arianna. More Schools Are Offering Student Mental Health Days. Here’s What You Need to Know. Education Week. (Feb. 2023).

Prothero, Arianna. Student Behavior Isn’t Getting Any Better, Survey Shows. Education Week. (Apr. 2023).

Tracking State Trends in Chronic Absenteeism. FutureEd. (May 2024).

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