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Indicator 12: Absenteeism and Achievement
(Last Updated: February 2019)

In 2017, the percentage of 8th-graders who reported that they had zero absences from school in the last month was higher for Asian students (62 percent) than for students who were Black (42 percent), White, Hispanic, of Two or more races (40 percent each), Pacific Islander (38 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (35 percent).

Children who are frequently absent from school may experience academic difficulties and are less likely to complete school if no intervention takes place.1 Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), this indicator examines racial/ethnic differences in the percentage of 8th-grade students absent from school in the last month, focusing on students with zero absences and students with more than 10 absences (i.e., students at the low and high ends of the range). It also examines differences in the mathematics and reading achievement of 8th-grade students on NAEP by number of absences and race/ethnicity.


Figure 12.1. Percentage distribution of 8th-grade students by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2017

Figure 12.1. Percentage distribution of 8th-grade students by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2017


NOTE: Includes public and private schools. Includes students tested with accommodations (9 to 12 percent of all students, depending on assessment and grade level); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all students). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2017 Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 227.50.


As part of the 2017 NAEP, students reported how many days they were absent from school in the last month. A higher percentage of Asian 8th-grade students (62 percent) reported that they had zero absences from school in the last month than did students who were Black (42 percent), White, Hispanic, of Two or more races (40 percent each), Pacific Islander (38 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (35 percent).

Conversely, a lower percentage of Asian students (2 percent) were absent 5–10 days in the last month than students who were White (5 percent), Hispanic (5 percent), Black (5 percent), of Two or more races (7 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (8 percent), and Pacific Islander (11 percent). Additionally, the percentages of White and Hispanic students were lower than that of students who were of Two or more races, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander.


Figure 12.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score of 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2017

Figure 12.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score of 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2017


Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).
NOTE: At grade 8, the mathematics scale ranges from 0 to 500. Includes public and private schools. Includes students tested with accommodations (9 to 12 percent of all students, depending on assessment and grade level); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all students). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2017 Mathematics Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 227.50.


In general, students with fewer absences from school scored higher on the NAEP 2017 mathematics assessment than their peers with more absences. Within the White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Two or more races groups, 8th-grade students who had zero absences in the last month had higher mathematics scale scores than their peers who had any other number of absences. In addition, American Indian/Alaska Native students who had zero absences scored higher than those who were absent more than 10 days. Pacific Islander students who had zero absences or who were absent 1–2 days scored higher than those who were absent 3–4 days, but their scores were not measurably different from the scores of those who were absent 5–10 days.

For students with similar numbers of absences, mathematics achievement in 2017 can also be compared across racial/ethnic groups. Asian 8th-grade students who had zero absences from school in the last month had higher NAEP mathematics scores than students from every other racial/ethnic group with zero absences in the last month. Conversely, Black students who had zero absences from school in the last month scored lower in math than students from every other racial/ethnic group with zero absences in the last month. Among students who were absent more than 10 days in the last month, Asian students scored higher than students who were White, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native. Additionally, students who were White or of Two or more races scored higher than students who were Black and Hispanic.2


Figure 12.3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score of 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2017

Figure 12.3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score of 8th-grade students, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2017


Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).
NOTE: At grade 8, the reading scale ranges from 0 to 500. Includes public and private schools. Includes students tested with accommodations (9 to 12 percent of all students, depending on assessment and grade level); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 percent of all students). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2017 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 227.50.


Similar to the mathematics assessment, 8th-graders with fewer absences generally scored higher on the NAEP 2017 reading assessment. The exception was Pacific Islander students, whose reading scores did not measurably differ by number of days absent. For White and Black students, those who had zero absences from school in the last month had higher reading scale scores than those who had any other number of absences. Among Hispanic students, reading scores were higher for those who had zero absences or were absent 1–2 days in the last month than for those who were absent 3–4 days, 5–10 days, and more than 10 days. Among Asian students, reading scores were higher for those who had zero absences in the last month than for those who were absent 1–2 days, 3–4 days, and more than 10 days, and were not measurably different from the scores for those who were absent 5–10 days. Among both American Indian/Alaska Native students and students of Two or more races, reading scores were higher for those who had zero absences or were absent 1–2 days in the last month than for those who were absent 3–4 days and 5–10 days.

Reading achievement in 2017 can also be compared among students of different racial/ethnic groups who had similar numbers of absences in the last month. Asian 8th-grade students who had zero absences in the last month scored higher in reading than students of every other racial/ethnic group with zero absences. Conversely, Black students who had zero absences from school in the last month scored lower in reading than students with zero absences who were Asian, Two or more races, White, and Hispanic. Among students who were absent more than 10 days, Asian and White students scored higher than Black and Hispanic students.

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Endnotes

1 Gottfried, M.A. (2014). Chronic Absenteeism and Its Effects on Students’ Academic and Socioemotional Outcomes. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 19:2, 5375. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10824669.2014.962696.
2 Pacific Islander students who were absent more than 10 days in the last month are not included in this comparison because data were not available due to the small sample size.