Rise in absences prompts Virginia to consider changes in accreditation requirements

A quarter of 85 school divisions surveyed had a chronic absenteeism rate of over 25%
A box of tissue and a hand sanitizer bottle inside a Virginia classroom.
A box of tissue and a hand sanitizer bottle inside a Virginia classroom.(Nathaniel Cline | Virginia Mercury)
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 5:00 PM EDT
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Virginia education leaders are mulling another temporary pause in the use of chronic absenteeism as a factor the state considers in school accreditation decisions because of increases in student absences due to the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Chronic absenteeism, defined as a student being absent for 10% or more of the academic year, is one of nine factors the state looks at when determining whether a school should be accredited, or designated as meeting the state’s educational standards.

The move wouldn’t be unprecedented. Last April, the Board of Education agreed to suspend the use of chronic absenteeism as a factor in accreditation for the 2022-23 school year due to similar concerns.

Virginia’s chronic absenteeism rate is more than four times higher this school year than it was in the two years before the pandemic, according to a survey by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

According to the VASS data, approximately a quarter of 85 school divisions surveyed had a chronic absenteeism rate of over 25%. The Virginia Department of Education has said approximately 2% to 4% of the state’s 132 school divisions had that level of chronic absenteeism in the two years before the pandemic.

On March 23, the Department of Education recommended to the board that it suspend the chronic absenteeism indicator for the 2023-24 school year. A memo stated that “due to the lingering impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic, school division leaders continue to report increased absences despite the programs and procedures put in place to address chronic absenteeism.”

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NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)