October 30, 2020

The Ed-Fi Alliance has published a white paper on student instructional modality, attendance and engagement practices and data in the 2020-21 school year: https://www.ed-fi.org/assets/2020/10/Student-Modality-and-Attendance-Data-for-School-Year-2020-21.pdf

Further, the Ed-Fi Alliance is organizing and facilitating a Study Group to dive into the details of student instructional modality, attendance and engagement data to better inform the education leaders for supporting students and teachers.  We invite any SEA, LEA or SIS vendor representative to join the Study Group.  To join the Study Group please email @governance@ed-fi.org.  For more information, please visit here.  

Ed-Fi Working Draft 4: Attendance Codes to Support Expanded Instructional Models
Technical Suite: Suite 3
Status: Draft

By: Ed-Fi State Education Agency User Group 
Contact: Sayee.Srinivasan@ed-fi.org
Publication Date: August 12, 2020


This document provides guidance to State Education Agencies (SEAs) for the collection of daily attendance from LEAs to address evolving delivery models for safe school operation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • General Discussion
  • Delivery Models
  • Working Draft Details

General Discussion

To respond to the issue of opening schools during the pandemic, SEAs have provided guidance to districts for alternative delivery models.  The Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are responsible for implementing the specifics of the delivery models they wish to support and offer to parents. Because much of education funding is based upon student attendance, attendance taking, and reporting must be adapted for the different delivery models.

In general, SEAs are not requiring LEAs to electronically report their plans for delivery electronically but do have a need to have daily attendance reported.  It should be noted that while SEAs are not requiring supporting data for the daily attendance (e.g., class period attendance), the LEAs will be required to have sufficient record keeping for audits of their daily attendance reporting.

Delivery Models

SEAs have outlined alternative delivery models that generally fall into the following categories:

  • Modified on-campus school attendance: Delivery of educational services involves face-to-face interaction between student and instructor, with the on-campus logistics modified for lower the risk of community spread.
  • Full-time distance learning: Courses are delivered via the Internet (or other forms of digital technologies) without face-to-face interaction between student and instructor.
  • Blended on-campus and distance learning: Students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face (on-campus) teaching.

The challenge with attendance-taking arises in the full-time or part-time (blended) use of distance learning, which can take many forms:

  • Remote synchronous: Students logged in to receive remote instruction (Zoom, Teams,..).
  • Remote asynchronous: Students learn and are assessed using online learning content on their own time with periodic remote interaction with their teachers.
  • Remote self-study: Remote learning without an online component.
  • Hybrid remote: combination of synchronous, asynchronous and/or self-study.
  • Use of existing virtual schools with established online curriculum.

The following table shows the current best practices for taking attendance for the various delivery options.

Delivery options

How student attendance is measured


Physical presence at an official attendance time

Remote synchronous

Online (logged in) presence at an official attendance time

Remote asynchronous

Teacher checks daily attendance based upon student’s “engagement”

•        Completion (turn-in) of assignments for that day

•        “Progress” as predefined in a learning plan in the LMS

•        “Progress” as predefined in a learning plan and verified by from teacher-student interactions made that day

Parent attestation

Remote self-study

•    Completion (turn-in) of assignments for that day (not online)

•    “Progress” as predefined in a learning plan and verified by from teacher-student interactions made that day

On-campus asynchronous

Physical presence at an official attendance time while working online


Apply the approaches above on a student-by-student, day-by-day basis

Recommended Attendance Codes

While SEAs may choose to keep their daily reporting of student attendance as before, we recommend that SEAs to collect positive and negative attendance in addition to adding the following attendance codes to reflect for individual students how instruction was provided for that day:

  • In attendance – on-campus
  • In attendance – remote synchronous
  • In attendance – remote asynchronous
  • In attendance – remote synchronous and asynchronous
  • In attendance – blended on-campus and remote
  • In attendance – on-campus asynchronous
  • In attendance – self-study remote
  • In attendance – remote per parent attestation
  • Absent – reason unknown
  • Absent – cannot contact
  • Absent – technology disruption
  • Absent – not engaged
  • Absent – due to COVID-19

In Ed-Fi, this can be captured from the Student Information System (SIS) by adding to the AttendanceEventCategoryDescriptor that is used in the StudenSchoolAttendanceEvent entity.

Consider collecting both Positive and Negative Attendance 

Given the current context of LEA planning for school and the rapid changes we continue to see in LEA plans, the Alliance advises agencies to strongly consider collecting both positive and negative attendance via Ed-Fi. This is likely necessary to be able to support both LEA and SEA data needs using the same set of information, as well as to produce an accurate picture of attendance.

Most Ed-Fi agencies use a “negative-only attendance” model where a school instructional calendar is collected and then the SIS marks students absences against that calendar. States have so far discussed using that same model for 2020-21. However, that model likely has two issues:

Rationale for collecting both Positive and Negative Attendance

Without positive attendance codes, agencies are unlikely to be able to determine exactly how attendance metrics were actually achieved. Negative-only attendance collection seems likely to mis-represent some quantity of data, as it unclear if schools calendars in the SIS will be able to successfully designate and transfer accurately which students are virtual and which are in person (or in some other model) for a given school calendar date (the below diagram shows an example of this scenario). It is not hard to imagine situations in which calendars could become section- or even individual-based, as local health conditions evolve and/or parents are given discretion to make local choices

As such, to mark a school calendar date as “in person” or “virtual” may not accurately capture the data on all students, and therefore – if using only negative attendance and calendaring is indeed chaotic and localized -- it would become impossible to ascertain how the student actually “attended” for the day.

Diagram 1: Illustration of likely data issues with capturing only negative attendance under remote instruction and given student calendaring changes.

By capturing positive and negative attendance, it is likely that SEAs and LEAs can share the same data feed from the SIS. LEAs are very likely to need to collect the means by which a student was counted in attendance. Without positive attendance and with chaotic calendaring, data may be lost in transmission via Ed-Fi.

Fieldwork References

The following state attendance models were consulted in developing this list.

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