Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

November 18th, 2014

New York Study Shows Nexis Between Chronic Absence and Poverty

All high-poverty schools are not alike. Some manage to succeed despite a high number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals, while others struggle miserably. Some have decent attendance rates, while other see more than a third of their students missing a month of school every year.

A new report by The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School looks closely at the city’s schools and documents the risk factors that plague struggling schools. A Better Picture of Poverty: What Chronic Absenteeism and Risk Load Reveal About NYC’s Lowest-Income Elementary Schools also identifies improving attendance as a key strategy to turning around these schools.

The report, released at a panel discussion Nov. 6, found that more than 87,000 New York City children from kindergarten through third grade missed 10 percent or more of the school year in 2012-13. That number is down from 2008, when the New School released its first report on chronic absence. That report spurred then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to launch an intensive pilot program in 100 schools to improve attendance. The rate of chronic absenteeism in elementary schools declined from 23 percent in 2009 to 19 percent 2013.

The report went beyond student data to identifiy 130 schools were more than a third of students were chronically absent for five straight years. These schools had a few things in common: Scores on standardized tests for reading and math were far below the city averages. And many of the students lived in deep poverty with high rates of homelessness, child abuse reports and male unemployment.

Chronic absenteeism, the report states, “is a much better index of poverty than the traditional measure of the number of children eligible for free lunch.”

Researchers identified 18 “risk factors” that come hand in hand with chronic absenteeism. The higher the risk load. the higher the absenteeism rate tended to be.

They included factors in the school:

  •  Students eligible for free and reduce price meals
  • Students known to be in temporary housing
  • Students eligible for welfare benefits from the city Human Resources Administration
  • Special education students
  • Black or Hispanic students
  • Principal turnover
  • Teacher turnover
  •  Student turnover
  • Student suspensions
  • Safety score on the district’s Learning Environment Survey
  • Engagement score on the Learning Environment Survey

Other risk factors related to the neighborhood:

  • Involvement with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services
  • Poverty rate according to the U.S. Census for the school’s attendance area
  • Adult education levels
  • Professional employment
  • Male unemployment
  • Presence of public housing in a school’s attendance area
  • Presence of a homeless shelter in a school’s attendance area

Researchers noted the success that Bloomberg’s initiative had on reducing chronic absence and urged the new mayor, Bill De Blasio to use this data as he designs his efforts to improve the city’s schools.

“Mayor de Blasio made the effects of poverty in school a major campaign issue. In his administration’s ongoing work, it is important to know which schools are facing the most virulent effects of poverty,” says Kim Nauer, lead author of the report and education research director at the Center.

“Our work identifies those schools,” she says. “We argue that risk load and chronic absenteeism should be an important consideration as the mayor launches expensive new programs, like his promised 100 new community schools, explicitly designed to help students overcome poverty-related educational issues.”

For more information, contact Kim Nauer at 646-942-8414 or at

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November 17th, 2014

Holiday Messaging

The winter holidays represent a challenge–and an opportunity–for educating parents about the importance of good attendance. As you know, absences often spike in the weeks before and after winter break, as families try to squeeze in a few more vacation days.

On our website, you can download and use free tools to help remind parents that the best gift they can give their children this year, and every year, is a good education and that begins with getting to school every day. Click the following links to download:

To receive additional messaging resources throughout the year, please sign up for our email list.

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November 12th, 2014

In Middle School, Grades and Attendances Matter

Schools across the country are focused on improving standardized test scores as a measure of student achievement and school success. But when it comes to measuring what factors best predict high school graduation and college enrollment, other factors stand out: grades and attendance. Looking Forward to College and High School, a new study by the University of Chicago Consortium of Chicago School Research (CCSR), found that grades and attendance also matter more than  race, poverty or other demographic characteristics.

“Test scores are very good at predicting future test scores but not as strongly predictive of other outcomes we care about, like whether students will struggle or succeed in high school coursework or graduate from college,” said UChicago CCSR Lewis-Sebring Director Elaine Allensworth, the lead author of the report, said in a statement.

CCSR has already produced powerful research showing the effects of poor attendance as early as preschool and on the success of efforts to improve achievement and attendance in ninth grade. The middle school report tracks  about 20,000 Chicago Public Schools students  from elementary to high school.
Researchers found that students who improve their attendance during the middle grade years have better outcomes in high school than those who simply improve their test scores. even when the students start out at the same level. The report concludes that middle schools should invest in strategies to improve attendance.
Other findings include:
  • Students’ middle school grades are a crucial point of intervention. Students show considerable growth and declines in grades between fifth and eighth grade, and these changes can have strong implications for high school grades. Students need very high grades in middle school to be on course to earn high grades in high school. In fact, only those students who leave eighth grade with GPAs of at least 3.0 have even a moderate chance of earning a 3.0 GPA in high school, the threshold for being considered college-bound. A 3.5 middle school GPA was found to give students about a 50 percent chance of college success.   But grades can and do improve in middle school—with real payoffs. For example, a one point difference in GPAs in eighth grade corresponds to a 20 percentage point difference in the likelihood of passing ninth-grade math.
  • Whether students are “ready” for high school depends not only on their academic performance in the middle grades but also on the context that they enter into in ninth grade. Students with the same academic records in middle school often have different high school outcomes depending on which high school they attend.  Furthermore, many students leave the middle grades looking like they are prepared to do well in high school only to see their grades and attendance drop dramatically in ninth grade, putting them at risk of not graduating or not being ready for college.  In fact, only about half of students exceeding the state standards on tests and earning a 3.5 GPA in eighth grade earned at least a 3.0 GPA in high school.  When students get mostly As and exceed testing standards in eighth grade, and then get Cs or lower in ninth grade, it suggests the problem with low grades is at least has at least as much to do with the high school context as with students’ preparation.  This highlights the need for monitoring students’ academic performance closely during the ninth grade year, to make sure they are performing up to their potential, as well as working to improve their attendance and grades before high school.

The release of the report coincides with the launch of a program several Chicago middle schools to focus on a successful transition to high school.

“The most consistent finding throughout this report is that grades and attendance in middle school matter considerably for high school outcomes,” said UChicago CCSR senior researcher Marisa de la Torre, an author of the report. “If our ultimate goal for students is high school and college success, then we would do well to spend at least as much time providing the instructional environment and supports that would lead to higher grades and attendance as schools currently put on improving test scores.”
 A copy of the report is available on the UChicago CCSR website.

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