JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has released the most recent school and district chronic absence data. The data shows that 28% of Mississippi students were absent 18 days or more during the 2021-22 school year.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% (18 days) of the school year for any reason, which includes excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. Chronic absence differs from Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which is the average number of enrolled students who attend school each day.

During the 2021-22 school year, 128,275 Mississippi public school students were chronically absent, which is an increase of 33,186 students from 2020-21.

The rates increased steadily for all K-12 grades in 2021-22. The chronic absenteeism rate in K-5 elementary schools was highest for kindergarten at 28.4%. The chronic absenteeism rate in middle school was highest in grade 8 at 29.6% and highest in high school in grade 12 at 45.3%.

MDE began reporting chronic absence data in 2016, and the 28% overall rate is the highest to date.

The agency will relaunch a statewide attendance awareness campaign in June. The campaign is designed to challenge students and school districts to reduce individual absences to no more than five absences in a school year and was initially launched in September 2018. Mississippi’s campaign is part of a national movement to reduce chronic absenteeism. Before the pandemic, Mississippi’s chronic absenteeism rate fell to 13% in 2018-19.

“Higher than normal chronic absenteeism numbers are not unique to Mississippi following the pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Taylor, state superintendent of education. “Now more than ever, it is imperative that MDE and all educational stakeholders develop and implement strategies to get students back in school and on track to achieve academic and career success.”