Key Questions

1. How prevalent is absenteeism, particularly chronic absenteeism, among school-based pre-k students in Chicago Public Schools? Who is most likely to be chronically absent?

2. How are different levels of absence related to academic and behavioral learning outcomes in pre-k? Does the relationship between pre-k absences and kindergarten readiness vary for students with different entering skills?

3. Is pre-k attendance related to a) attendance in subsequent grades and b) learning outcomes in second grade?


Consistent school attendance is a critical component of education. Although research suggests that high rates of absenteeism is a significant issue for many students, minimal evidence exists focusing on absences among the nation’s youngest students—those in pre-kindergarten. 

This study focused on students in a large, urban district and examined the prevalence of pre-kindergarten chronic absence for different student subgroups, its relationship to learning outcomes during pre-kindergarten, and its association with ongoing attendance patterns and learning outcomes through second grade. Results indicated that absence in pre-kindergarten was widespread, particularly among African American students and those who entered pre-kindergarten with the lowest skills. Chronically absent pre-kindergarten students—those who were absent 10 percent or more of their enrolled days—displayed lower levels of academic and behavioral kindergarten readiness and were more likely to be chronically absent in subsequent grades. By third grade, students chronically absent for multiple years exhibited the need for significant intervention to read at grade level. These findings suggest that providing supports to improve attendance in pre-kindergarten and early elementary years has the potential to reduce achievement gaps and redirect struggling students onto the pathway toward educational success.