In the report from KIDS COUNT, chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 10 percent of the school year. This includes excused and unexcused absences. The study shows more absences for students in their earlier years could mean less proficiency on the third grade reading test.
Hedy Chang is director of the nonprofit organization Attendance Works. She says chronic absentees tend to go down a less successful route in education.
"If they're chronically absent in kindergarten, and then first (grade), and then they're not reading by the end of third grade, what we know is that predicts middle school truancy, suspensions, lower middle school scores because the kids start to fall behind. Then, they feel disengaged, and now we have a much more serious, much more expensive problem to deal with," says Chang.
During the 2013-2014 school year, the national trend showed minority students being more likely to have chronic absences. In Mississippi, the opposite is true. 17 percent of students with abundant absences were white, while 14 percent were black. The study also shows low-income students are more likely to have chronic absences.
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says there are actions schools can take now to encourage higher attendance.
"There are many reasons that children are going to need our assistance more than not. Take a look at who's absent, and over what period of time. Are we even contacting these parents to find out why they're absent? Sure enough, we found out that there were times that parents didn't realize that they had gone to work, and the little one made the decision to just stay at home," says Wright.
Education officials hope the data will prompt schools and districts to engage and support at-risk students and their families.