The percentage of students defined as “chronically absent” was down last school year compared to the 2013-2014 year, according to numbers released Monday by the Mississippi Department of Education.

About 14 percent of students were absent 10 percent or more of the time, or “chronically absent,” during the 2016-2017 school year.

In the 2013-2014 school year, the first year the state reported the numbers, 15 percent of students were chronically absent.

Mississippi’s chronic absenteeism rate is high in kindergarten at 13.6 percent, decreases in early elementary years and increases again through middle and high school. The highest rate is 12th grade at 30.1 percent, according to the Education Department.

Research has shown chronic absenteeism has a negative impact on student achievement, State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said.

“One of the first steps school leaders can take to address this issue is to examine their data to identify the students who are struggling the most with chronic absenteeism,” Wright said. “Schools, parents and communities need to work together to make sure all children are attending school regularly.”

Three districts with the highest chronic absenteeism rates:

Forrest County Agricultural High School (26.4 percent)

Natchez-Adams (25.6 percent)

Lumberton (24.8 percent)

Three districts with the lowest chronic absenteeism rates:

Hollandale (3.3 percent)

Durant (4.7 percent)

Reimagine Prep (6.1 percent)

Find the full report here.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.