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

Chapter 2: Attendance Codes Taxonomy Category Descriptions

A student is considered "present" if he or she attends an instructional program that has been approved by the state and/or school...

This taxonomy includes two major categories: Attending/Present and Not Attending/Absent. The terms "attending" and "present" are used interchangeably in this publication, as are the terms "not attending" and "absent." Each category is further broken out into codes that describe how the student spends his or her time, whether present or absent. These codes were developed to help schools collect and analyze data on student absences and design interventions that will improve attendance and achievement. There is one code in the taxonomy to describe each instance of student attendance. The codes are intended to address the following information needs:

  • Where is the student?
  • Is the student participating in regular curricular instruction or instruction related to the regular curriculum?
  • Under whose authority is the student?

It is important to remember that statutes and practices differ from state to state and across localities concerning recognized reasons for student absences. The subcategories in this taxonomy do not address whether or not an absence is excused. States and districts are responsible for making these determinations. Appendix A presents a crosswalk between the taxonomy and a sample of reasons for student absences from states and districts. Examples of how state statutes differ in defining attendance are highlighted in appendix B.

For the purposes of this document, attendance is defined as follows:

A student is "present" or "attending" if attending an instructional program that has been approved by the state and/or school. Three assumptions apply:

ASSUMPTION 1:     Each site in which a student is enrolled (whether singly- or dually-enrolled) is responsible for taking attendance for the day or portion of the day.
ASSUMPTION 2: School is in session for the day or part of the day. Students are not counted as present or absent if school is closed.
ASSUMPTION 3: Students who have transferred out of the school, dropped out, completed school, or are otherwise not enrolled are not counted as present or absent.