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Chronic Absenteeism Crisis in Education

Attendance Crisis:

Absent kids have harder lives.

We start here because this is the issue that The Achievement Initiative is all about solving. The reality is really quite stark and we like to remind ourselves just what’s at the heart of what we do.

  • 83% of students chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade cannot read on-level by third grade

  • Students not reading on-level by third grade are 4X more likely to drop out

  • High school dropouts are 8X more likely to be incarcerated than people with high school diplomas

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Girl in Classroom
Attendance Crisis
Empty Chairs in Lecture Room

Chronic absenteeism...

it's awfully late.

This is a learning time crisis—we cannot wait until kids miss too many days of school and fall behind. Students in the U.S. are missing school at epic rates. Nationally, more than 15% of students are missing more than one month of school. Their futures are at risk. The negative effects of school absences last a lifetime.

  • High risk of dropping out

  • Poor grades

  • Low test scores

  • Less chances of graduating high school

  • High risk of incarceration

  • Lower earnings over a lifetime

We Have an Attendance Crisis

Global competition: is the U.S. losing the race for the future?

We should be concerned. There's a global race for the future, and we have an education crisis rooted in a national attendance crisis. Any focus on strengthening our future workforce has to begin with a focus on attendance.

  • Other countries have a longer school year than students in the U.S.

    • Students in other industrialized countries are going to school 25 to 30 percent longer than students in the U.S.

    • Competing countries have more learning time

  • U.S. educational performance ranks well below other countries

    • Global survey results of 72 countries and economies show that despite decades of intense efforts to improve schools, U.S. student achievement of 15-year-olds ranks 24 in reading, 41 in math, and 25 in science.

    • U.S. students are at a disadvantage

  • College admissions are heavily based on test scores and GPA

    • As few as five absences dramatically decreases a student's GPA

    • Students who are absent the days prior to testing have lower test scores

Older teacher holding a globe.

What the Data Shows

More than 40 years of research has confirmed the direct impact of school attendance on student success.​

K-12 crisis in education stats.
Chalkboard with crisis chart pointing downward.

Want some good news?

We have a proven solution to help.


Our mission is to create a culture of achievement starting with creating a culture of showing up. The Achievement Initiative is directly impacting student outcomes and closing the achievement gap across the country. No other company can show the same results.

Special Education Crisis:

This is the lowest performing subgroup—yet its enrollment is growing the fastest.

Over the years, the number of special education referrals have spiked—we're over identifying mild to moderate students for special education services while seeing a drop in their academic performance and graduation rates.

  • 30% of students in special education won't graduate

  • Spending per student in special education is 2x more than spending per student in general education

  • 7.5% exit rate means that once students enter special education, they likely won't ever come back out

  • 75% of the students in special education are considered mild-to-moderate, which means that they are not severely disabled, and could likely have their needs met in the general education classroom setting

  • 95% of new teachers feel unprepared about critical classroom management strategies

  • Teacher's aren't equipped with pre-referral strategies, so special education has become the de facto remedial program

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In the Classroom
Special Education Crisis

Lower outcomes for life

The National Longitudinal Study tells us that special education graduates are less successful than their peers by almost any measure or indicator:

  • Independent living

  • Marriage

  • Community participation

  • Employment


One exception where special education graduates out-perform their peers:

  • Increased contact with law enforcement

Thinking Man on Couch

"Instead of opening the door to a brighter future, special education for many students is a dead end."

—California Statewide Special Education Task Force Report, 2015

Parent teacher conference

It's a struggle at every level

Too many students are being referred to special education that don't belong there, resulting in skyrocketing special education costs and poor student outcomes.

  • Teachers
    Don't have consistent training, tools or access to relevant interventions

  • Districts
    No streamlined process (it's all on paper, in binders and outdated books), and Response to Intervention (RtI) and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) tracking systems don't solve all the issues

  • Principals
    No easy way to monitor progress, oversee support teams or keep parents involved in the process

  • Students
    Long-term negative consequences among those mild to moderate students who don't belong in special education are startling

  • Parents
    Most are seeking additional help for their child and think an IEP (special education) is the only way to access help

Need more details? Contact us

We are here to assist. Contact us by phone, email or via our social media channels.

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