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The Importance and Effects of School Attendance

Since the pandemic, the attendance rate has not been the same. Some parents struggle to get their kids to school, which is a concern that more families are experiencing. 

Chronic absenteeism is a concern that schools are trying to figure out and are desperately trying to address. Several articles about attendance are beginning to address how the attendance rate has not been the same since the pandemic. 

An NPR March 2023 article reports that unreliable transportation, loss of interest and sense of belonging in school, and increased mental health concerns are some of the common barriers school districts report kids not attending school regularly. 

What’s clear is the growing concern about the importance of school attendance.

Excused or Unexcused School Absences

One thing that may not have changed is whether an absence from school can be excused or not excused. Parents must still justify absences and late arrivals to document their child’s absences to help schools maintain accurate attendance records. There are attendance policies that parents must follow to help schools maintain attendance records.

Schools have a set number of days that kids may miss without consequences each school year. Some schools may retain or fail a child in a grade level once the student reaches the set number of days.  The number of days varies by school and sometimes by state. Refer to your child’s code of conduct document to see the number of days for your school. 

Long-term effects of missing school

Excessive absenteeism is an urgent concern because students miss out on learning opportunities each time they miss school. Researchers report that academic achievement lowers when kids’ regular attendance plunges. There are long-term effects that kids experience due to poor attendance.

Below are some of the long-term effects kids experience:

  1. Academic struggles: Students who miss school may fall behind on their assignments, affecting their overall academic performance. Missing school can also lower grades, affecting students’ ability to graduate or attend college.
  2. Social and emotional issues: School is where kids interact with their peers, make new friends, and build social skills. When they miss school, they miss out on these opportunities, leading to social isolation and emotional issues such as anxiety or depression.
  3. Health problems: Missing school can also impact a student’s physical health. Students may miss important vaccinations or health screenings, which can lead to health problems down the line. Also, missing school due to illness can lead to longer recovery and potential complications.
  4. Increased dropout rates: When students miss school frequently, they are at a higher risk of dropping out. Dropping out of school can significantly impact a student’s earning potential and future job prospects.
  5. Economic impact: Lack of education can also impact future earning potential and economic mobility. Students who miss a significant amount of school may struggle to find well-paying jobs or pursue higher education, limiting their economic opportunities.

Easily report absences

Easily report attendance issues, tardiness, or early dismissal with these easy-to-use templates. Order a pack of 5 templates to help you stay connected with teachers and schools.

  1. A note page to send quick notes to school
  2. An early dismissal page to report when your child needs to leave early.
  3. A note page to send a quick note to teachers.
  4. An absent notification page to inform of absences.
  5. A combined absence and early dismissal page to communicate as needed.

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When is an absence excused?

A school absence is excused if:

  • it is due to an illness
  • a family emergency
  • due to a bereavement
  • a previously scheduled medical appointment
  • religious observance
  • or a school-sanctioned event. 

When is an absence not excused?

A school absence is typically not excused if:

  • it is due to reasons that are not recognized as valid by the school or district, such as missing school to go on a family vacation
  • the absence was not reported or approved in advance by the school or parent/guardian
  • the absence is due to truancy or skipping class
  • the absence is due to suspension or disciplinary action
  • the student avoids an important exam, standardized test, or class presentation without a valid excuse.

The reasons for excused or unexcused absences may vary depending on the school or district policies. All schools maintain an attendance policy that parents can access and review. There are also state-wide policies that school districts may follow.  

How to support your child when absent

  1. Set up a routine: Help your child establish a routine or schedule they can follow while away. This can include designated times for studying, breaks, and relaxation.
  2. Communicate regularly: Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and school to find out what assignments your child is missing and what they need to do to catch up. You can also ask for resources or materials to help support their learning.
  3. Provide a quiet study space: Create a space in your home where your child can study and focus without distractions. This can include a designated study area with a comfortable chair, desk, and good lighting.
  4. Set clear expectations: Establish clear expectations for your child’s academic progress while they are away. Give them specific goals to work towards and discuss their progress regularly.
  5. Provide academic support: If your child is struggling with a particular subject, consider hiring a tutor or working with them to find online resources to help them practice and improve.
  6. Encourage reading: Encourage your child to read books, newspapers, and magazines to develop reading and comprehension skills.
  7. Reward progress: Celebrate your child’s progress and accomplishments by offering praise, rewards, or incentives for their hard work and dedication to their academic progress and when they improve school attendance.

What to do when your child is absent

Parents are responsible for communicating with school and teachers when their child needs to miss school. Absences, tardiness, and early dismissals need an excuse note. A note should indicate why the child is absent, late, or needs to leave school early. School personnel document the absence in the system as excused or non-excused. 

Why send a note?

 Absence notes document why a student is absent. When parents don’t send a note, a child’s record of attendance appears as unexcused as a permanent record. What some parents don’t realize is that attendance records are used for different purposes. A student’s attendance record not only influences academic performance it also helps explain academic performance. Furthermore, attendance records are also used to make entrance and programming decisions.

When families are interested in applying for school choice or school programming, attendance is often taken into consideration. It is important to understand that excused attendance looks much better than unexcused attendance on a child’s record. 

Send a note excusing an absence, tardiness, or early dismissal every time this happens. A school note must include the following information:

  1. Today’s date
  2. The day the child was absent, tardy, or needs early dismissal.
  3. The reason he was absent, tardy, or needs early dismissal. (refer to excused and unexcused absences)
  4. A parent signature
  5. Contact information such as email and phone number.

How to report a student’s absence

  1. Start by addressing the note to the student’s teacher or school administration.
  2. Include the date(s) of the student’s absence, the reason for the absence (for example, if the student is sick).
  3. Provide your contact information, including your name and relationship to the student, in case the teacher or administration needs to reach you for additional information.
  4. Sign the note and date it.

Be ready to report or update any absence, early dismissal, or late arrival with these easy to use templates!

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Traveling for an extended time

Some families travel abroad or locally for extended periods of time. Traveling abroad is one way families expose their kids to languages and cultures. I have seen some schools excuse these absences, and others disapprove. I have also seen that some districts have a travel policy while others do not. 

Contact your school administrator before your travel dates if you plan to travel with kids. Teachers can sometimes provide or discuss class work with parents ahead of time. Online learning has changed how kids learn, and they can now keep up with schoolwork even when absent. Please note that not all schools allow kids to make up missed work when absent. 

In most cases, vacations to Disney or any other family fun trips are not excused absences from school. However, a trip due to a family emergency or bereavement may be excused. Discuss with your child’s school to clarify.

Frequently Asked Questions About School Attendance


School attendance is an important factor in a child’s education. Parents are responsible for sending a note to school whenever a child is absent, tardy, or needs early dismissal.  A child’s attendance record can have long-term consequences in the future. Not sending a note to excuse an absence can hinder a child’s academic program qualifications or entrance. 

Remember to send in a note for every absence to ensure your child’s record is not affected by being absent, late, or leaving school early.

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