Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

December 21st, 2016

New Study: Strong Attendance Improves Reading Literacy

Researchers from Arizona State University wanted to find out which factors might negatively impact a student’s ability to read by third grade. The answer for students in Arizona was clear: good attendance makes a real difference.screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-8-38-20-am

The research is associated with Read On Arizona, a statewide public and private partnership aimed at boosting language and literacy skills for children from birth through age eight. The team used data from a variety of sources and an average chronic absent rate of 10 percent for schools statewide. The study found that for a 1 percent increase in third grade attendance rates, there is an average increase of 1.5 percent of students passing the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) third grade reading test at the school-level in 2013-2014.

On the other hand, for a 1 percent increase in chronic absenteeism (i.e. the percentage of students who miss 18 or more days in a given school year), there is an average decrease of 0.3 percent of students passing third grade AIMS reading, they found.

The researchers wrote about their analysis in a blog post for the Brookings Institution. While the data in this study are specific to Arizona, many of the challenges faced by Arizona are similar in states across the country. For example, in 2015, 38 percent of students in fourth grade fell below basic reading levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, placing the state only 6 percent below the national average, they wrote in the blog.

“Policymakers and practitioners are often faced with a variety of choices when it comes to ensuring that students reach their full academic potential,” the researchers wrote. “Although this seems intuitive, our analysis suggests that for those looking to improve student learning, particularly as it relates to literacy, increasing attendance rates may be critical first step.”

Find the full blog post here.

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November 7th, 2016

Let Teens Sleep in the Morning to Improve Attendance

It’s a true story in many families: the elementary child who happily agrees to turn out the lights at 8:00 pm gets to bed at 11:00 pm or later by middle and high school. Why is that so many teenagers stay up late and have trouble getting to school on time? Start School Later, a national nonprofit, believes the key to ensuring students get enough sleep so they can attend school every day−and stay healthy and safe−is to focus on when the morning school bell rings.start-school-later-md-teens

Since the 1970s and 80s, middle and high schools shifted their start times to begin classes earlier than elementary schools. Today the average morning bell time for middle and high schools is 8:03 am, and many start as early as 7:00 am. This leaves many students, and especially those who have to travel an hour or more to reach campus, bleary eyed when they rise from bed at 6:30-7:00 am to get to school on time.

Beyond making it challenging to get to school every day, teens who don’t get enough sleep are set up to be at risk for a variety of health issues including obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety. And research shows that drowsy students who lack adequate sleep are more often chronically absent and tardy at school, and are in more automobile crashes.

Are teens just being willful, as some might believe? Studies also show that as children mature their sleep and wake patterns shift to later hours. With this in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2014 issued a brief urging high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the chance to get an optimal 8.5–9.5 hours of sleep a night.

As a mother of three, Terra Ziporyn Snider says she “lived and breathed this issue on both a personal and professional front for years” as she worked to change the 7:17 a.m. high school start times in her school system. The local school board was not able to make the change. She and Maribel Cabrera Ibrahim realized that a multifaceted approach was the only one that was going to work. The two women teamed up and created Start School Later.

Moving school start times affects a community’s entire day, from start times for after school activities or student jobs, to when parents get to work in the morning. The biggest hurdle in most communities is related to school bus routes. Most districts have a limited number of buses, which are shared among the entire student population.

Yet a shift in school start times has been picking up steam. Already districts in 44 states have moved to later start times for middle and high school students. The results have been swift: When schools have delayed the start of the school day, communities have seen reduced tardiness, as well as improved attendance, graduation rates and standardized test scores, studies show.

The call for a later school start time for teens is supported by a number of health organizations. In addition to AAP, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a host of other national and regional groups support later morning school start times for teens.

Find out more at the Start School Later website: http://www.startschoollater.net

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September 8th, 2016

Press Release: New Report Shows Chronic Absenteeism Concentrated in 4% of Districts

SAN FRANCISCO, September 6, 2016 – Nine out of 10 U.S. school districts experience some level of chronic absenteeism among students, but half of the nation’s chronically absent students are concentrated in just 4 percent of its districts, according to a new analysis of federal data.

Preventing Missed Opportunity, released on Tuesday, September 6, by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center underscores how this often overlooked factor is dragging down achievement in communities everywhere – from sprawling suburban places where absenteeism can fester in the shadow of academic achievement to small rural communities where geography complicates getting to school. Disadvantaged urban neighborhoods are particularly hard hit, according to this study of the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

“What’s clear from our analysis is that chronic absenteeism follows poverty wherever it is found in significant concentrations,” said Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who leads the Everyone Graduates Center.

Many of the communities with the highest rates are economically, socially and racially isolated. An interactive data map shows a snapshot of some of the districts most affected.

“Chronic absence is one of the earliest signs that we are failing to provide an equal opportunity to learn,” said Chang, executive director of Attendance Works and co-author of Preventing Missed Opportunity: Taking Collective Action to Confront Chronic Absence. “A day lost to school absenteeism is a day lost to learning.”

The study, released in connection with Attendance Awareness Month in September, builds on June’s first-ever release of chronic absence data in the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection.

The data showed that 6.5 million students, or more than 13 percent nationwide, missed three or more weeks of school in excused or unexcused absences that year. That’s enough time to erode their achievement and threaten their chance of graduating. More than half of those chronically absent students are in elementary or middle school. Some gaps in the data suggest the numbers may be an undercount.

“Our analysis shows that large numbers of chronically absent students can be reached in a relatively small number of districts and schools,” said Balfanz, co-author of the analysis. “This tells us we need to combine widespread awareness of the importance of addressing chronic absenteeism with high intensity, community wide, comprehensive efforts in the small number of highly impacted school districts. This is how we can make chronic absenteeism rare rather than common.”

Further analysis of the data revealed:

  • 89 percent of the nation’s school districts report some level of chronic absence. This ranges from two chronically absent students in one district to 72,376 in another.*
  • Half the chronically absent students, however, are found in just 4 percent of the nation’s school districts and 12 percent of its schools. These 654 districts are spread across 47 states and the District of Columbia.
  • This trend of large numbers of chronically absent students affecting a handful of districts also holds true for states. In fact, 10 percent of the chronically absent students nationwide can be found in just 30 districts in two states with very large student populations, California and Texas.
  • Some of the places with the largest numbers of chronically absent students are affluent, suburban districts known for academic achievement. For example, Montgomery County, Md., and Fairfax County, Va., two suburbs of Washington, D.C., each have more than 20,000 chronically absent students. While their rates are close to the national average, the large numbers reflect both the sheer size of the districts and their growing populations of low-income students.
  • Districts serving disadvantaged urban neighborhoods have both high rates and high numbers of chronically absent students. Cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Detroit report that more than a third of students are chronically absent. The concentration of intergenerational poverty in these communities of color and the web of systemic challenges families encounter – not enough affordable housing, poor access to health care, absence of well-resourced schools, too much exposure to violence and environmental pollutants – all complicate school attendance. Punitive school discipline practices such as overuse of suspension also can contribute to absenteeism as well as to community distrust of schools.
  • Many small, rural school districts have few students but extremely high rates of chronic absenteeism. Transportation and other challenges related to poverty can keep students from getting to school regularly in remote areas. For example, 31 percent of the 504 students in Arkansas’ Bradford School District missed three or more weeks of school. So did 31 percent of the 2,752 students in Alabama’s Colbert County School District. Washington state reports that 119 of its districts have rates of 30 percent or greater.

Given the scope of the problem, the study by Balfanz and Chang lays out key steps school districts and states can take to turn around attendance. State and local leaders need to know the size of their chronic absence problem to understand how to improve educational outcomes. Information about the concentration and the severity of absenteeism also sheds light on the intensity and nature of support required.

“Leaders can use chronic absence data to engage students, families, community organizations and government agencies in unpacking barriers to getting to school and crafting solutions,” Chang said. “The federal Every Student Succeeds Act offers a critical opportunity for building chronic absence into the school accountability systems used to measure progress and identify where additional support is needed to improve student performance.”

Featuring success stories in communities such as San Francisco and Grand Rapids, Mich., as well as states like Arkansas and Connecticut, the brief shows chronic absence is a solvable problem. It also shares how communities are tackling chronic absence through efforts like the U.S. Department of Education’s My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentors initiative and Diplomas Now.

“The challenge and opportunity of improving attendance is to avoid making the all too common, incorrect assumption that chronically absent students and their parents simply do not care. Instead of blame, schools should use chronic absence as a trigger for collective, strategic, creative problem solving,” Chang said.

*Note: This analysis was developed prior to data corrections submitted to the OCR for Florida and New York City. Nonetheless, we believe these gaps do not change the overall patterns and suggest the overall levels of students missing 15 or more days are an underestimate.

Download the full Brief here.
View the online data map.

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