June 27th, 2012
Local studies Offer New Insights into Who is Affected by Chronic Absence
Two recent studies show how chronic absence data can tease out patterns and problems in local school districts. Researchers at Stanford University conducted an analysis in Redwood City, a city of about 80,000 midway between San Francisco and San Jose, and found that, the highest rates of chronic absenteeism were among kindergarten and 12th grade students in the Redwood City School District. The study also demonstrated the academic effects that chronic absence has across age groups The largest factor in whether a student was chronically absent was chronic absence status in the prior year.
In Oakland, Calif, researchers from Urban Strategies Council focused on attendance trends for African-American boys in a report released last month. The analysis found that they were almost twice as likely as the general Oakland Unified School District population, and more than three times as likely as White boys, to be chronically absent.
This report demonstrates the critical importance of Oakland Unified’s decision to begin regularly calculating and monitoring chronic absence and use disaggregated data to unpack the challenges and realities for particular populations of students. The results illustrate the troubling and harsh reality that poor achievement and dropout for African American male students can be traced back to especially high levels of chronic absence in kindergarten and 1st grade. Missing so much school during these early years for any reason even excused absences can mean children are less likely to gain the skills they need to read well by the end of third grade.
The Redwood City analysis found that poor attendance correlated with poor academic performance. In Researchers from the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities found that the number of days a student was absent had a significant negative effect on California Standards Test percentiles in both math and English Language Arts for students in 3rd through 8th grade, as well as on GPA in high school students. Middle- and higher-achieving students were found to be at greatest risk of decline due to chronic absence, highlighting the impact that absenteeism can have even on students who are academically advanced.
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