Skip Navigation
Every School Day Counts: The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data
NCES 2009-804
February 2009


The National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) Attendance Task Force that developed this document began its work as the Truancy Working Group in 2006, which focused on defining "truancy" under the reporting requirements of Title IV of the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools program. This group determined that truancy was actually an extreme case within the broader issue of student attendance, warranting guidance from the Forum. And, the Task Force was convinced that high-quality attendance data can help educators understand where students are during the school day and can be used to help staff intervene in a manner that improves student attendance and achievement.

Student attendance matters, and the quality of attendance data matters as well.

The Truancy Working Group became the Attendance Task Force in July 2007. Task Force members used their experience and a wide range of resources to generate a list of common attendance codes and develop the attendance code taxonomy presented in chapter 2. State attendance statutes were aggregated for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Task Force reviewed this list of reasons for student absences to determine how each state's policies could be reflected in this taxonomy. Reasons that applied to students who were no longer enrolled were excluded from this document, which addresses only the attendance status of enrolled students. Students who have withdrawn from a school are not subject to attendance codes because they are no longer enrolled in the school.

For a taxonomy of student exit
codes, see the Forum document,
Accounting for Every Student: A Taxonomy
for Standard Student Exit Codes

State attendance policies are the basis of attendance codes used by states and school districts. Therefore, attendance categories in this guide were derived from the attendance codes used by states and school districts. To ensure that the taxonomy was based on real-world practice, Forum members from several state education agencies and school districts submitted their attendance codes for a comparative review. These existing attendance codes were collapsed into the smallest number of categories that covered every reported code while maintaining states' or districts' differences. For example, a number of state or district policies identified "absences for bereavement" as a separate category while other states categorized bereavement under the more general "absences for family reasons." The Forum attendance taxonomy includes both categories. However, some attendance codes were combined; the taxonomy includes a single category for "legal or judicial requirement" that includes absence for judicial proceedings, trial dates, or time in court custody. See appendix A for a crosswalk between the taxonomy and reported state and district reasons for student absences.