New Brief: How School Discipline Policies Affect Chronic Absenteeism

Research shows that chronic absenteeism affects long-term educational outcomes, and a school’s disciplinary policies can increase the impact of absences on students. Twelve percent of Arkansas kindergarteners through third graders are chronically absent, which means they miss 10 percent or more of the school year. The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families just released an issue brief examining the impact school disciplinary policies have on chronic absence rates. 

school discipline and attendance report

How School Discipline Policies Affect Chronic Absenteeism highlights data on exclusionary discipline in Arkansas and outlines how these policies may be counterproductive to reducing chronic absenteeism as they force students out of the classroom. Over a three-year period ending in the 2014-15 school year, elementary schools reported 8 percent of students receiving in-school suspensions, with 5 percent of students suspended out-of-school. These policies lead to a loss of valuable instructional time and hurt students’ long-term academic achievement.

The state has taken steps to reform discipline policies to keep students in the classroom. A 2017 state law, Act 1059, prohibits out-of-school suspensions or expulsions for kindergarteners through third graders. The state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan also includes chronic absence as a measure of assessing student and school success, which will allow the state to measure the success of the new law.

The brief also offers practices and strategies schools can implement to address student behavior and keep them in the classroom.