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Posted: May 10, 2024

APS to Take Part in White House Summit on Chronic Absenteeism

Strategies employed here have reduced the problem, but more work remains.

From left, Mark Garcia and Bryan Garcia.

From left, Mark Garcia and Bryan Garcia.

Two Albuquerque Public Schools leaders are headed to a White House summit to explore ways to reverse high student absenteeism, a persistent problem schools nationwide have been grappling with since the pandemic.


Mark Garcia, the Associate Superintendent of Leadership, Learning and Equity for Goal 3, and Bryan Garcia, Community Schools Development Specialist, will share what APS has been doing collectively to reverse the trend. The Goal 3 and Goal 4 teams have been working collaboratively throughout the year to look at the root causes. The work is part of the district's strategic plan, which aims to improve student outcomes.

The meeting—dubbed the Every Day Counts Summit: Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Increasing Student Engagement—is set for Wednesday, May 15.

“We’re thrilled to be able to share the successes APS has had in combating this persistent problem,” Mark Garcia said. “APS has invested significant resources and human capital into attendance and has reduced chronic absenteeism, experiencing a drop from an all-time high of nearly 44% in 2021-2022 to 38% in 2022-2023 to 28% so far this school year.” 

“There’s more work to be done, and we are looking forward to hearing about solutions others have come up with,” he added. 

Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10% or more of the days enrolled in school, can negatively impact student academic achievement, social and emotional development, mental health, and overall well-being.

While the pandemic exacerbated chronic absenteeism, New Mexico and other states have been dealing with the issue for years. In 2019, New Mexico enacted the Attendance for Success Act, which turned the state away from a truancy approach. The law asked districts to create attendance teams at each school, mandated school-wide Attendance Improvement Plans, and called on schools and districts to engage all families experiencing chronic absenteeism to determine and address root causes. 

APS responded by developing an attendance support unit made up of attendance social workers in target schools and coaches coordinating with all other schools to combat chronic absenteeism. As part of the process, APS has instituted an EWS early warning system that is now being enhanced by the development of a comprehensive student success system called SSS. 

These systems alert school staff of students developing attendance and academic challenges. School staff then provide interventions to support students and families. These efforts are built upon a strong foundation that includes the implementation of the Community School strategy as a transformational model for schools.  

“In leveraging both the community school strategy and the work of student success systems, our community is organizing a collaborative and systemic response to build student-centered mindsets that are founded upon a focus on strong supportive relationships throughout our entire community,” Bryan Garcia said. “The way to improve student outcomes is to do it together.”

In its invitation to the summit, the Biden-Harris administration said it “is taking steps to help states, districts, and schools address this challenge, including through targeting resources and technical assistance alongside efforts to engage state and local leaders, and other partners.” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden are among those scheduled to participate in the summit.