Percentage of North Carolina K-12 students missing 15 or more days of school (indicator shown as distance from 100%)

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Last updated: 2016

= Top southern state :

only available for totals, not available for all indicators

The percent of public K-12 students who missed 15 or more days of school in a school year.

North Carolina’s chronic absenteeism rate is 14.6%, meaning 14.6% of K-12 students in North Carolina missed 15 or more days of school during the 2015-16 school year. This placed our state 24th among all states in 2016. South Carolina (11.3%) had the lowest chronic absenteeism rate among southern states; North Dakota had the lowest chronic absenteeism rate overall (9.5%).

By 2030, the goal is to reduce the statewide chronic absenteeism rate to 11%. This goal was set by the myFutureNC Commission.

Being physically present in school is a necessary precursor to learning. Chronic absenteeism in early grades may prevent children from developing the skills they need to succeed in later grades. Research has repeatedly found a “clear and consistent relationship between early attendance and later achievement,” including:

In middle grades, chronically absent students are less likely to be on-track to graduate from high school on time. In fact, improving attendance is a better predictor of high school outcomes than test score improvement.

Once in high school, chronically absent students are much more likely to dropout. The national organization Attendance Works notes that chronic absenteeism disproportionately affects economically-disadvantaged students:

“Children living in poverty are two to three times more likely to be chronically absent—and face the most harm because their community lacks the resources to make up for the lost learning in school. Students from communities of color as well as those with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

This isn’t simply a matter of truancy or skipping school. In fact, many of these absences, especially among our youngest students, are excused. Often absences are tied to health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, and oral and mental health issues. Other barriers including lack of a nearby school bus, a safe route to school or food insecurity make it difficult to go to school every day.  In many cases, chronic absence goes unnoticed because schools are counting how many students show up every day rather than examining how many and which students miss so much school that they are falling behind.”

Meeting the 2030 Goal

North Carolina needs 56,500 more students to attend school more regularly to meet the statewide goal.

In 2016, North Carolina’s chronic absenteeism rate was 14.6%, up from 13.8% in 2014.

Bar chart showing % of NC public school students who missed 15 or more days of school, 2016, by sex, demographic group, and overall NC state average.

By sex 

Chronic absenteeism rates for male students (14.9%) were higher than rates for female students (14.3%) in 2016.

By race/ethnicity

Asian students (8.6%) had the lowest rates of chronic absenteeism. Hispanic (13.8%) and White (13.9%) students had the next lowest rates followed by black  (16.1%) and multiracial (18.3%) students. American Indian students had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism: 25.4%.

By race and sex

For all racial/ethnic groups, male students are more likely to be chronically absent than female students. The gap between male and female students was highest for black students: 16.8% vs. 15.3%, a difference of 1.5 percentage points. American Indian students had the second largest gap between male and female students (1.2 percentage points).

Where does the data for Chronic Absenteeism come from?

The data on chronic absenteeism comes from the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection by the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

How was the data calculated?

The rate of chronic absenteeism is calculated by dividing the number of students reported chronically absent by the total number of students enrolled.

Chronic Absenteeism rate = # of students chronically absent / Total # of students enrolled

Chronic Absenteeism Rate = (Number of students chronically absent) / (Total number of students enrolled)

Who is included?

All students in public schools who reported chronic absenteeism data. This includes local educational agencies (LEA), juvenile justice facilities, charter schools, and alternative schools.

Who isn’t included?

Schools who did not report chronic absenteeism data were excluded from the state totals.

Who is working on this in NC?

Help improve this section

If you know of an organization that is working on this topic in NC, please let us know on the feedback form.

Name: Attendance Works

Scope: National


About: Attendance Works is a national initiative that pushes for better policy and practice to improve school attendance.

Name: NC Early Childhood Foundation

Scope: Statewide


About: The mission of the NC Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) is to “marshal North Carolina’s great people, ideas and achievements to build a foundation of opportunity and success for every child by the end of third grade.” NCECF engages business, faith, law enforcement, and community leaders as early childhood champions to effectively communicate the broad societal impact of policies that affect early development and learning. NCECF leads and supports state and local collaborations – bringing together birth-through-eight health, family support, and education leaders across government, policy, private, nonprofit, philanthropic and research sectors – to advance a shared vision and course of action for maximum impact for children and families. NCECF also provides policymakers, advocates, business leaders and the public with research and analysis about the impact of federal and state birth-to-eight policy and innovations proven to achieve results for young children.

NC-focused, state-level dashboard

Name: NC School Report Cards


About: North Carolina’s school report cards are an important resource for parents, educators, state leaders, researchers, and others, providing information about school- and district-level data in a number of areas. These include student performance and academic growth, school and student characteristics, and many other details.

Further research and literature

Attendance Works. (2016). Key Research: Why Attendance Matters for Achievement and How Interventions Can Help. Retrieved December 16, 2019, from

Balfanz, R., Herzog, L., & Mac Iver, D. J. (2007). Preventing Student Disengagement and Keeping Students on the Graduation Path in Urban Middle-Grades Schools: Early Identification and Effective Interventions. Educational psychologist, 42(4), 223–235.

Bauer, L., Liu, P., Schanzenbach, D. W., & Shambaugh, J. (2018). Reducing Chronic Absenteeism under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Washington, DC: The Hamilton Project.

Buehler, M. H., Tapogna, J., & Chang, H. N. (2012). Why Being in School Matters: Chronic Absenteeism in Oregon Public Schools. Attendance Works.

Chang, H. N., Bauer, L., & Byrnes, V. (2018). Data Matters: Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success – Attendance Works. Attendance Works and Everyone Graduates Center.

Chang, H. N., & Romero, M. (2008). Present, Engaged, and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.

Ehrlich, S. B., Gwynne, J. A., Pareja, A. S., Allensworth, E. M., Moore, P., Jagesic, S., & Sorice, E. (2014). Preschool Attendance in Chicago Public Schools: Relationships with Learning Outcomes and Reasons for Absences. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Jacobs, B. A., & Lovett, K. (2017, July 27). Chronic absenteeism: An old problem in search of new answers. Retrieved December 17, 2019, from

North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. (2018, February 21). NC State Board of Education Establishes Definition of Chronic Absenteeism. Retrieved December 8, 2019, from

U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Chronic Absenteeism in the Nation’s Schools: A hidden educational crisis. Retrieved October 1, 2019, from


Which absences from school contribute to a student being chronically absent?

According to NC DPI: “Student chronic absence refers to missing so much school, for any type of absence—excused, unexcused, disciplinary—that a student is at risk of falling behind.”

Where can I learn more about the Civil Rights Data Collection?

The U.S. Department of Education maintains a FAQ on Civil Rights Data Collection.


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