The Associated Press

Chronic Absenteeism in Public Schools

Overview

This data was released for the first time ever on June 7 by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

UPDATE: This data was retracted on August 8 after the Department of Education acknowledged problems with figures from Florida schools. Because of this, the Associated Press is no longer making the data available. Links will be updated once the DOE has corrected the data.

The Associated Press had expressed concerns to the Department of Education about the accuracy of Florida's data reporting; the DOE is reviewing these issues now and acknowledges that figures from Florida schools -- and the state's overall absentee rate -- were understated in the original dataset. This data was retracted as of August 8 by the Department of Education as a result of the Associated Press' questions. The AP will post corrected data when it becomes available.

The data details the number of public school students grades kindergarten through 12 considered to be "chronically absent" -- or missing at least 15 days -- during the 2013-14 school year.

During that period, nearly 6.5 million students -- or 13 percent of all students enrolled at schools that reported these figures -- were considered chronically absent. Boys and girls were, in general, equally likely to be given this status. The DOE collected these figures from public schools in every state, and data from 93,565 schools are included in the Associated Press' analysis.

On Wednesday, July 8, the White House and Department of Education announced the expansion of a mentors program aimed at reducing absenteeism to 20 additional communities, including Detroit, Portland, Ore. and Sacramento, Calif. More information about that effort can be found in this press release.

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About the data set

This data comes from a mandatory biennial (every two years) survey conducted by the DOE's Office of Civil Rights. A handful of local education agencies, which can be school districts or individual public charter schools, do not report or certify their data. As of January, 2016, more than 99.5 percent of local education agencies had reported their data, and 99.2 percent had certified that their figures were accurate.

TO NOTE: As of July 20, the Associated Press has voiced concerns about the accuracy of the state of Florida's data. Figures for all Florida school districts -- and the state's overall absentee rate -- may be artificially low because of undercounting. The Associated Press has alerted the Department of Education to its concerns, and the DOE is re-checking Florida figures across a variety of metrics, including absenteeism. UPDATE: As of August 8, the Department of Education has retracted absenteeism data because of erroneous reporting in Florida. If these figures are later corrected, the Associated Press will provide updated data.

For this analysis, the Associated Press excluded schools that reported absentee rates above 100% of their reported enrollment. The AP also excluded schools did not cover grades K-12 or that did not report this metric to the Department of Education. Those schools are not included in the count of schools per district, nor are their enrollment figures included in the district- or national-level enrollment figures.

For more general information on the data or to obtain the raw data through a zip file or by requesting it on disc, see the Department of Education's website.

For complete documentation, see the DOE's data user manual.

This data release from the Department of Education was accompanied by the following First Look analysis of the numbers, which includes data sets beyond the absenteeism figures analyzed by the AP. The Associated Press has expressed concerns about the accuracy of many of these figures because of problematic reporting by the state of Florida; because of potential errors, the Department of Education has delayed release of other data sets. These figures have since been retracted by the Department of Education. See the DOE's First Look report here.

The Department of Education has undertaken a national initiative to address chronic absenteeism. For more information, see this and more information from February about a mentorship program in certain areas here .

Included spreadsheets

These links have been disabled because the Department of Education has retracted its data after the Associated Press expressed concerns about undercounting. If and when the Associated Press receives updated, corrected data, it will be posted here.

Absenteeism by State: The first spreadsheet groups the data by state, providing a count of schools, an overall state-level absenteeism rate and a breakdown of absentee rates in the state by race.

Absenteeism at the District Level: This spreadsheet includes total absenteeism data from 16,719 local education agencies (LEAs). Most LEAs are school districts. Includes a count of the schools reporting these figures and a breakdown of absentee rates by race. Be aware that problems may exist with districts, particularly in Florida, where data may have been misreported. Also, a small enrollment of a certain group of students can result in particularly high absentee rates (i.e., if there are only 2 students of a particular race, and 1 is chronically absent, the rate is 50%)

Absenteeism at the School Level: Includes total absenteeism data, broken down by both race and sex, for 93,565 schools across the country. Can be filtered for state and district. The data has been self-reported and verfied by schools, but be aware that problems may exist with schools, particularly in Florida, where data may have been misreported. Be wary of using schools with particularly high total absentee rates; call to verify these figures. In addition, be aware that a small enrollment can result in a high absentee rate (i.e., if there are only 2 students and 1 is chronically absent, the rate is 50%)

IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT THIS DATA

As of July 20, the Associated Press has found reason to be concerned about the accuracy of the state of Florida's data. Figures for all Florida school districts -- and the state's overall absentee rate -- may be artificially low because of undercounting. The Associated Press has alerted the Department of Education to its concerns, and the DOE is re-checking Florida figures across a variety of metrics, including absenteeism. UPDATE: As of August 8, the Department of Education has retracted its absentee data because of the errors found by the Associated Press. If the figures are corrected, the Associated Press will provide updated data.

In a small number of cases, schools reported absentee figures higher than their total enrollments. The AP excluded these 191 schools, which had a total enrollment of 31,945, from its analysis.

The Associated Press left in schools that reported absentee rates at 100% of enrollment or less. Be cautious of reporting on schools with particularly high absentee rates; check local numbers with officials. If something is found to be in error, please alert Meghan Hoyer at mhoyer@ap.org.

An even larger number of schools reported a 0% absentee rate. This includes all the schools in several large districts, such as Prince George's County, Md.; San Antonio, Texas and Edinburg, Texas. If one or several large school districts have reported a 0% or close to 0% absentee rate -- likely in error -- it can effect statewide rates, making them artifically low. Be aware of this potential problem.

Column Definitions, Absentee Files

Universal Fields in all three datasets

Additional Fields for School- and District-Level data

All data collected and prepared by AP Data Journalist Meghan Hoyer, who can be contacted at mhoyer@ap.org or 202.641.9458.