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Chronic absenteeism is a serious problem in South Dakota. But what is it? Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses 10% or more of the school year. That’s only two days a month – and it adds up. Since the 2018-2019 school year, the rate of chronic absenteeism has nearly doubled in South Dakota.

That's bad, as chronic absenteeism is proven to increase drop-out rates, hurt student grades and can lead to juvenile delinquency. Research also shows that students who don’t graduate from high school miss out on lifetime earnings – making approximately $10,000 less per year than those who receive a high school diploma. Over the course of a lifetime, that adds up. Students’ futures start today. And they start in class.

Lifetime Earnings by Education Achieved

Increased education leads to higher earnings over the course of a lifetime. Median lifetime earnings for someone who does not graduate from high school is $1.2 million. For someone who does earn a high school diploma, that number jumps to $1.6 million – that’s a $400,000 difference, and the gap widens as you move up the scale. While pay isn’t everything, it is an important factor in deciding an educational and career path.

Source: Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce


Missing more than 15 days of class has what effects on students?

What You Can Do

Parents & Guardians

The best way to you can get (and keep) students in school is to take an active interest. Talk to your student about their schoolwork, ask about potential issues at school (bullying, a lack of school supplies, medical issues, etc.) and convey the importance of education in their lives. Ask why they’ve been truant or uninterested in school.

You can also take an active role in establishing expectations for attendance, communicating rules consistently and enforcing consequences immediately if your child skips class.

If you're a guardian who’s struggling with getting your child to school or facing challenges with transportation, after school care or other issues that might impact attendance, know that your school wants to help. Reach out to staff, and together you can help your child succeed.

Family & Friends

If you're a grandparent, friend or neighbor concerned about a child in your life missing school, you can help support attendance, too. Talk with the student and their guardian about your concerns, and offer ways to help like providing transportation or guiding them to talk with staff at their school. Listen, be supportive, and approach the conversation from a place of concern and understanding.


If you’re a student who’s missing class, you start owning your future today. Identify habits you can create to change your behavior, like waking up earlier, setting a morning routine, preparing for school the night before or going to school with a friend who can help hold you accountable. Try classes, clubs and organizations that interest you. While you may not love Algebra, a graphic design class might just make your day – and help make school a priority. Finally, talk with your parents or staff at your school to help identify ways to succeed.



Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are common factors that can increase student attendance?

A: Solutions to increasing student attendance are as varied as the students who are missing class time themselves. That said, common themes do emerge on what factors can help students get to class and succeed. They include:

  • Healthy, safe, and welcoming learning environments.
  • Family engagement and supportive educators.
  • A sense of belonging and connection. This can be driven by engagement in learning, enrichment opportunities such as clubs and co-curricular activities, and positive peer connections.
  • Access to caring adults and appropriate interventions, including where appropriate, health care and mental health supports.
  • Removal of external barriers, such as transportation, housing insecurity, inability to consistently wash clothes, and childcare needs.

Adapted from Attendance Works.

Q: How can I find out how much school my child has missed, and whether it is too much?

A: Talk to someone at your child’s school. This can be as simple as reaching out to your child's teacher or calling the office and asking to speak with someone about your child’s attendance. A school administrator or a school counselor can discuss with you in more detail about the effects of any absences and plan a strategy for decreasing absences. It is never too late to start that conversation!

Student success plans by grade level:

Note: if you are not a parent or guardian, the school will not be able to release information about a child to you.

Q: How can I encourage my child’s attendance at school?

A: Parents and guardians can also take an active role in establishing expectations for attendance, communicating rules consistently and enforcing consequences immediately if your child skips class.

Other ways to create good habits: establish a carpool, watch them get on the bus in the morning, contact the school office to ensure they arrive and maintain a regular routine. Finally, always look for negative behavior changes like alcohol use, aggression or depression as signals to get help.

Q: My teen isn't interested in school and doesn't see the point of class. What can I do to help?

A: Talk to your teen and a caring educator at school about courses and activities that can help them connect academics to their future. There's a world of options available!

  • Career and Technical Education classes connect the classroom with careers. Not the old “Voc Ed” or “shop class” you may know, these classes offer students hands-on opportunities to explore any future pathway they can imagine and can help students get there. They're available in every district. They even offer opportunities to join "clubs" that extend classroom learning.
  • Jobs for America's Graduates is a proven way to engage teens and help them stay in school. Ask if it’s available at your child’s school; if it’s not, ask if they can add it!
  • School counselors are educators trained to help students with academics, finding their career path, and navigating social and emotional development. Find out if your school has a counselor; talk to them about what options might benefit your teen to find their path.
  • A wide array of activities are available and sponsored by the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Ask your school what they offer; many have clubs and activities beyond those the SDHSAA coordinates.
  • If your child attends a public school, chances are they have interacted with SDMyLife – an academic and career planning tool for students. Ask your teen to log in and explore what’s there! It can help them connect with their interests, aptitudes, and future goals.
  • Want more? Our Dakota Dreams is the state’s hub for college planning and preparation. Here you can connect with resources such as online tutoring, summer career camps, and ways to plan for education after high school. Having a plan for what comes next may just be the ticket your teen needs to persist through to graduation.

South Dakota chronic absenteeism has nearly DOUBLED since 2019.