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Elizabethton schools take comprehensive approach to combat chronic absenteeism


Multiple research studies show that attendance at school is closely linked to academic and social outcomes. Students who are chronically absent are significantly less likely to read on level by third grade or to graduate. For this reason, the Tennessee Department of Education and Elizabethton City Schools are taking a comprehensive approach to reducing chronic absenteeism. Parents should be aware of new initiatives and incentives to increase student attendance:

  • Chronic absenteeism means 10 percent or more missed days of school – excused or unexcused. This is about 2 days monthly.
  • School and district administrators will be closely monitoring attendance and using preventative strategies and positive messaging to encourage attendance.
    • 3 unexcused absences: Parents will receive a letter.
    • 5 unexcused absences: Student will be referred to a truancy review.
    • 10 unexcused absences: Student will be referred to an additional truancy review.
  • Schools will be graded on an A-F scale, and attendance will represent 10 percent of that score.
  • All Elizabethton schools now have a School Attendance Team.
  • Good and improving attendance will be recognized at each school.

ECS Director of Attendance Travis Thompson said the district is using state and school level data to improve attendance. Statewide, students at the greatest risk of chronic absenteeism include economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.

Some of the most common reasons students miss school include lack of access to health care or transportation, bullying, few meaningful relationships with adults in school, poor school climate, undiagnosed disability, negative family perception of school, trauma and suspension.

“By understanding these barriers, we can identify student-specific solutions using a tiered support system at each school,” said Thompson. “Our School Attendance Teams are working to improve school climate, engage students with more diverse programs, strengthen relationships between parents and teachers, and meet students’ health and transportation needs to improve attendance in all grades.”

In 2017, TDOE introduced the Chronically Out of School Indicator as part of the accountability framework for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The indicator recognizes excessive absences – excused or unexcused – as a lost instructional opportunity and a data point that is actionable throughout the school year. This indicator is intended to measure school culture, student engagement in learning, non-exclusionary discipline practices, and other policies and practices that lead to positive student outcomes. This is one way ECS will measure the success of its strategies.

For questions related to attendance, please contact your school principal or Director of Attendance Travis Thompson at Central Office 423-547-8000.

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