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We belong in school.

Attendance Matters

Almost 1 in 4 Massachusetts students missed 18 or more days of school in 2022-2023.

Being chronically absent can have a significant impact on a student's academic progress and their ability to access the variety of academic and non-academic supports that schools provide.

Is your school an attendance priority school?

attendance chart

A data story published by the Massachusetts Education-to-Career Research and Data Hub examines the scope of chronic absenteeism in Massachusetts, how it affects student success, and evidence-based strategies to improve student attendance.

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Student, Family, and School Engagement

Family and school collaboration can boost students' attendance significantly.

collaboration of families, students, schools and DESE

Collaboration between families, schools and, DESE can improve student attendance. Families can reinforce the importance of regular attendance, provide support, and give insights into individual needs. Working together promotes prompt identification and resolution of attendance issues, encouraging a shared responsibility culture. Additional resources and support are available for districts, schools, and families.

Resources for Districts and Schools

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Guidance for Attendance Policies

This document provides guidance to school districts for attendance policies and practices. It includes key terms and definitions, laws on compulsory school attendance, responsibilities of parents, school committees, and schools, recommendations for written policies, and sample best practices. Additionally, it covers information on chronic absences, truancy, and dropping out, with the goal of promoting consistent student attendance and engagement in learning.

students looking at the computer

Department (DESE)Attendance and Dropout Reporting Guidance

This guidance document from 2021 is designed to answer questions district staff may have in reporting student attendance and dropout data to the Department. The guidelines apply to public school students, including students with disabilities who are placed by the district in public or private special education schools, and students in DYS facilities.

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The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

ESSA maintains a focus on advancing equity and excellence for all students, particularly disadvantaged and high-need students. Guided by ESSA, in Massachusetts, the current accountability system identifies how a district or school is doing.

Department Initiatives


The Department's Educational Vision (EdVision ) aims for all students in Massachusetts, particularly students from historically underserved groups and communities, to have equitable opportunities to excel in all content areas across all grades. Strategic objectives that help advance this vision include supporting the Whole Student, engaging students in Deeper Learning, and developing a Diverse and Effective Workforce.

The Whole Student strategic objective, for example, includes partnering with districts, schools, and programs to: Cultivate systems to support the whole student and foster joyful, healthy, and supportive learning environments so that all students feel valued, connected, nourished, and ready to learn.

Efforts in this direction can help students be more engaged in school (e.g., academically, emotionally, socially, and physically), can help address barriers to being in school (e.g., by providing supports where needed), and can help increase attendance and decrease chronic absenteeism (by helping give more reasons to be in school, and help decrease challenges to coming to school). The Department infuses efforts that directly or indirectly help increase attendance throughout numerous initiatives across offices. A few examples are offered below.

Rethinking Discipline

Suspending students from school for non-violent offenses, and particularly suspending them repeatedly, takes them out of the classroom and may have limited effectiveness in improving their behavior and performance, and cause the students to fall behind academically.

School leaders in Massachusetts and across the U.S. have found that by improving school climate through positive behavioral interventions, supports, and strategies, including restorative practices and conflict resolution, they can not only reduce suspensions but also promote greater school safety, discipline, and academic success.

Informed by state and federal laws and regulations, this initiative brings together schools/districts identified based on high rates of suspension and/or expulsion (for long-term suspensions or disparate rates related to race/ethnicity or disability status) and offers a professional learning network (PLN) where educators and administrators can learn with and from each other.

Social, Emotional, Behavioral Academy

The Social, Emotional, Behavioral Academy is a 3-year MTSS Academy that aims to help school and/or district teams cultivate joyful, culturally and linguistically sustaining learning environments and implement multi-tiered systems of social, emotional, and behavioral support.

Systemic Student Support Academy

Based on a needs assessment process related to effective practices for integrated student supports, schools identify focus areas for strengthening student support systems. Schools may identify chronic absenteeism as a focus area.

MyCareer and Academic Plan

My Career and Academic Plan (MyCAP) is a process that engages and empowers students to own their future and seek out learning opportunities that align with individual interests, strengths, skills, and talents. As students understand themselves, they become better able to identify authentic career interests and develop goals for attainment.

MyCAP guides students as they map their academic plan, identify the personal/social skills necessary for workplace and life success, and identify and gain access to career development activities that will support them on their pathway to postsecondary success.

Last Updated: January 16, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.