Denver, CO – Over a quarter of Colorado’s students faced chronic absenteeism during the 2022-23 school year, a concerning figure, albeit an improvement from the previous year. Chronic absenteeism in the state is defined by the Colorado Department of Education as missing over 10% of school days, irrespective of the reason.

The department’s recent analysis revealed a total of 269,582 students, or 31% of the student body, being absent for such lengths of time. Although a striking figure, it’s worth noting that this is a dip from the 36% recorded during the more pandemic-impacted 2021-22 academic year. This indicates a reduction of approximately 48,000 students from the chronically absent category.

“Every day a student is in school is an opportunity for them to learn, build relationships, and access support,” remarked Susana Córdova, Colorado’s Education Commissioner. Recognizing the state’s schools and their continuous efforts, Córdova stressed the importance of collective community action.

“The surest way to make improvements in our recovery from the disruptions of the pandemic is for kids to be in school,” she urged.

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic absenteeism rates floated between 18% to 24%. During the 2022-23 period, excused absences, often attributable to health or school-related reasons, were twice as prevalent as unexcused absences.

The data paints a clearer picture of which grade levels and student groups are most affected. Kindergarten and the high school grades of 10th, 11th, and 12th recorded the highest absenteeism, soaring above 35%. Disparities also arose among specific student demographics.

English learners, students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), and those who qualify for free/reduced-price lunches had absentee rates of 40%, 39%, and 43%, respectively. Alarmingly, 60% of students experiencing homelessness and 43% of migrant students were also chronically absent.

This data underscores the ongoing challenges schools and communities face, even as Colorado attempts to move past the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures serve as a stark reminder of the importance of addressing both educational and societal factors that contribute to absenteeism.

As the state grapples with these numbers, it’s evident that collaboration between educators, parents, and community members remains crucial for Colorado’s educational future.