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Beginning July 1, 2018, as a result of Public Act 100-0156, school districts, charter schools, alternative schools and any schools receiving public funds (“schools”) are required to collect and review “chronic absence data” to identify the systems of support and resources that are required “to engage chronically absent students and their families to encourage the habit of daily attendance and promote success.”  This review must include an analysis of the chronic absence data at both the district/network- and school/attendance center/campus-level.  Schools are also encouraged to identify students who are at risk of becoming chronically absent and provide them with systems of support and resources as well.

The Act defines “chronic absence” as absences that total 10 percent or more of school days of the most recent academic school year for an enrolled student, including absences with or without valid cause and out-of-school suspensions.  The term “student” includes any enrolled student who is subject to the compulsory attendance requirement, but excludes a student for whom a documented homebound or hospital record is on file during the student’s absence.

Schools are not required to implement any specific system of support or provide any specific resource to a chronically absent student or the student’s family.  Instead, the Act “encourages” schools to consider the strategies available through the Illinois Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Network.  The Act further “encourages” schools to provide resources to families similar to those available through the State Board of Education’s Family Engagement Framework.  Therefore, although the General Assembly has enacted another unfunded mandate, schools have at least maintained local control over the ability to interpret the data and respond as appropriate.

The Act is not specific as to how often this review must occur, but presumably an annual review on or around July 1 was intended.  One of the Act’s findings states “[i]t is crucial . . . that the implications of chronic absence be understood and reviewed regularly.”  By definition, chronic absence is calculated year-over-year based on data from the most recent academic school year, which likewise suggests an annual review.  For these reasons, the safe assumption is that an annual review is expected between school terms to ensure tailored systems of support and resources are available for students and their families at the start of the next school term.

Finally, one must acknowledge the Act’s overlap with the School Code’s provisions regarding “truant minors.”  See 105 ILCS 5/26-2a; 105 ILCS 5/27A-5.5(d).  In short, given the definition of “chronic absence,” a subset of truant minors—perhaps a significant subset—should be reflected in the chronic absence data.  Therefore, the possibility exists that schools are already providing this target population with the types of systems of support and resources contemplated by the Act.

The Act is codified in the School Code at Sections 26-18 and 27A-5(g)(12).  See 105 ILCS 5/26-18; 105 ILCS 5/27A-5(g)(12).

If you have any questions regarding the Act or education law generally, you may contact Stephanie B. Donovan.