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Indicator 11: Absenteeism and Achievement
(Last Updated: July 2017)

In 2015, the percentage of 8th-graders who reported that they had zero absences from school in the last month was higher for Asian students (65 percent) than for students who were Pacific Islander (47 percent), Black (45 percent), of Two or more races (45 percent), White (44 percent), Hispanic (44 percent), or American Indian/Alaska Native (32 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 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 the number of absences and race/ethnicity.


Figure 11.1. Percentage distribution of 8th-grade students who were absent from school in the last month, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent: 2015

Figure 11.1. Percentage distribution of 8th-grade students who were absent from school in the last month, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent: 2015


NOTE: Includes public and private schools. Includes students tested with accommodations (9 to 13 percent of all students, depending on assessment, grade level, and year); 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.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Mathematics and Reading Assessments, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 227.50.


As part of the 2015 NAEP, students reported how many days they were absent from school in the last month. A higher percentage of Asian 8th-grade students (65 percent) reported that they had zero absences from school in the last month than did 8th-grade students who were Pacific Islander (47 percent), Black (45 percent), of Two or more races (45 percent), White (44 percent), Hispanic (44 percent), or American Indian/Alaska Native (32 percent).

On the other end of the range are those students who were absent more than 10 days in the past month. A higher percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native (3 percent), Black (2 percent), and Hispanic (2 percent) 8th-grade students than of White or Asian 8th-grade students (1 percent each) were absent more than 10 days in the last month.


Figure 11.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score of 8th-graders, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2015

Figure 11.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics scale score of 8th-graders, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2015


‡ 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 13 percent of all students, depending on assessment, grade level, and year); 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), 2015 Mathematics Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 227.50.


Students with fewer absences from school scored higher, on average, on the NAEP 2015 mathematics assessment than their peers with more absences. Within the White, Black, Hispanic, and Two or more races groups, 8th-grade students who had zero absences in the last month had higher mathematics scale scores than 8th-grade students who had any other number of absences. In addition, Asian students who had zero absences scored higher than those who were absent 3–4 days or 5–10 days, and American Indian/Alaska Native students who had zero absences scored higher than those who were absent 3–4 days or more than 10 days.

For students with similar numbers of absences, mathematics achievement in 2015 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 8th-grade students from every other racial/ethnic group with zero absences. Conversely, Black 8th-grade students who had zero absences from school in the last month scored lower in math than 8th-grade students from every other racial/ethnic group except American Indian/Alaska Native students; there was no measurable difference in scores for Black students and American Indian/Alaska Native students with zero absences. For students who were absent more than 10 days, White students scored higher than students who were Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Hispanic.


Figure 11.3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score of 8th-graders, by race/ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2015

Figure 11.3. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale score of 8th-graders, by race/ ethnicity and number of days absent from school in the last month: 2015


‡ 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 13 percent of all students, depending on assessment, grade level, and year); 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), 2015 Reading Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 227.50.


Differences in NAEP 2015 reading assessment scores for 8th-grade students followed, to some extent, the pattern of differences in NAEP 2015 mathematics assessment scores for 8th-grade students. Within the White, Black, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander groups, 8th-grade students who had zero absences from school in the last month had higher reading scale scores than 8th-grade students who had any other number of absences.2 Reading scores for Asian students who had zero absences in the last month were not measurably different from the scores for Asian students who were absent 1–2 days or 5–10 days, but were higher than those for Asian students who were absent 3–4 days or more than 10 days. The same pattern was observed for American Indian/Alaska Native students. Reading scores for students of Two or more races who had zero absences in the last month were higher than the scores for those who were absent 3–4 days or 5–10 days.

Reading achievement in 2015 can also be compared for students in different racial/ethnic groups who had similar numbers of absences in the last month. Asian 8th-graders who had zero absences in the last month scored higher in reading than 8th-graders from every other racial/ethnic group with zero absences. Conversely, Black 8th-grade students who had zero absences from school in the last month scored lower in reading than 8th-grade students from every other racial/ethnic group with zero absences. Among students who were absent more than 10 days, Asian and White students scored higher than Black and Hispanic students. Additionally, Asian students scored higher than American Indian/Alaska Native students.

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1 DeSocio, J., VanCura, M., Nelson, L., Hewitt, G., Kitsman, H., and Cole, R. (2007). Engaging Truant Adolescents: Results From a Multifaceted Intervention Pilot. Preventing School Failure, 51(3): 3–9. Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/PSFL.51.3.3-11.
2 Pacific Islander students who were absent more than 10 days are not included in this comparison because data were not available due to the small sample size.