Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, a new definition of “absent” will be used to identify students who are chronically absent. As part of the implementation of the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, districts and schools are required to report to the South Carolina Department of Education the number of students who are chronically absent each year. According to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), an absent student is one who misses 50% of the instructional day for any reason regardless of whether the absence is excused or unexcused. In other words, students must attend class for at least half of the instructional day to be considered present for that day.

    Using this new definition, the OCR requires states to report the number of students in each district and school who are absent at least 10% of the time during which they are enrolled in a particular school or district. More specifically, students who are enrolled in the same school for an entire academic year and miss 18 or more days (10%) will be considered chronically absent. The total number of chronically absent students will be included on district and school report cards and reported to the OCR.

    Chronic absenteeism is not the same as truancy.

    Chronic Absenteeism


    Chronically absent: Any student in grade K- 12 who misses 50% or more of the instructional day for any reason for 10% (or more) of the enrollment period.

    •    All types of absences contribute to chronic absenteeism:

    –  Excused Absences 

    –  Unexcused Absences – Suspensions 

    •    A student is absent if he or she is not physically on school grounds and is not participating in instruction or instruction-related activities at an approved off-grounds location for the school day.

    Truant: A student between the ages 6– 17 who has accumulated unexcused absences on three consecutive days or has accumulated a total of five or more unexcused absences during the academic year.

    •    Only full-day unexcused absences contribute to truancy. 

    •    Excused absences and suspensions do not affect truancy


    Because chronic absenteeism is associated with poor academic performance, increased dropout rates and decreased graduation rates, districts and schools are encouraged to make sure that parents are aware of this change. Once a student is identified as chronically absent, parents will be notified and asked to sign an acknowledgment form with information on how to work towards minimizing school absences. One significant change is the coding of early dismissals at the elementary level. In the past, when a student was signed out early, this was not indicated in PowerSchool attendance records with separate coding. Now parents may see an absence coding of SC – EDSM=Early Dismissal (the student was present for 50% of the school day and the student will be marked as present for the day) or SC – DSML=Dismissal (the student was NOT present for 50% of the school day and the student will be marked absent for the day), based on the time the student was signed out and/or the reason for the time away from school.

    For more information about chronic absenteeism, please contact your building principal or Marguerite Brown-Canty at 803-810-8000.