Advisory to the Field 

On May 27, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) issued a broadcast titled “Guidance for Reporting Student Absences and Calculating Chronic Absenteeism 2020 Update/COVID-19 Attendance Issues.” Broadly, this document directs districts that they must submit attendance data for the 2019-20 school year by June 30, 2020, and explains some considerations that are to be taken given the current environment.

The broadcast explains that: “While chronic absenteeism rates will not be reported in the School Performance reports for 2019-20” because of a federal accountability waiver obtained in March 2020, “attendance data must still be submitted under the guidelines of this document to NJ SMART SID Management.”

Further, the document states: “Schools can still determine how ‘excused’ and ‘unexcused’ absences are defined for the purposes of expectations and consequences regarding truancy, student conduct, promotion, retention, and the award of course credit” within the bounds of the existing regulations, which have not been modified.

Rather than defining attendance as whether or not a student was physically present in a school building, the NJDOE explains that “all students can be recorded as present for applicable days unless the district knowingly determines a student was not participating in any such instruction, in which case they must be recorded as absent.” This statement will likely be interpreted in many different ways at the local level.

Local association leaders should be aware that teaching staff members and/or secretarial staff members may be involved in the process of compiling attendance data for the current academic year.

NJEA will continue to work with the NJDOE to advocate for the needs of our members. NJEA’s division of Professional Development and Instructional Issues will supply the field with updated guidance from the NJDOE, as it becomes available.

Please reach out to NJEA’s Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division with questions, concerns, or need for support.