Attendance Works News
December 5th, 2013
This past June, when California lawmakers changed the way the state distributes aid to public schools, they created an unprecedented opportunity for school districts and communities to begin addressing chronic absenteeism.
The new state aid system, known as the Local Control Funding Formula, removes many mandates and puts decisions in the hands of local school districts and county boards of education. It also provides extra resources for districts dealing with high-need students–those living in poverty, learning to speak English, dealing with disabilities or living in foster care.
In exchange for local control, the state is asking for accountability. This comes in the form of the Local Control Accountability Plan that each district must submit. Within these plans, school districts must address eight state priorities including school climate and student engagement that the advocacy group Children Now and our partners in the Chronic Absence and Attendance Partnership worked to secure. And embedded within the pupil engagement priority is a requirement that schools create “annual goals” and “specific actions” to reduce chronic absence–defined as the percentage of students missing 10 percent or more of the school year.
We’re delighted with this development, since we know that chronic absence is a red flag that students and schools are headed off track. Too much absenteeism at a school can slow down instruction for all students and point to systemic problems in schools or entire communities. We recognize, though, that many school districts and county agencies don’t know where to start.
In Accountable for Attendance, a new brief we produced jointly with Children Now, we lay out the best strategies for improving attendance. Many of these strategies can be used by any community or school seeking to reduce chronic absence. They include:
- Gather Data: Determine the extent to which chronic absence is a problem district-wide as well as for particular schools, grades and student populations
- Ask Why: Find out why students are missing school and identify common barriers to attendance
- Build Capacity: Use training and professional development to deepen understanding of effective tools and practices
- Engage stakeholders: Engage internal and external stakeholders in reviewing the data and identifying solutions that leverage local practices and resources
- Set Targets: Develop annual goals, specific actions and budgets for inclusion in the local plan
California is one of several states that has begun to use chronic absence to assess student and school success. Several–including Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon–included the metric as part of plans devised under waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Others have built attendance tracking into their early warning indicator systems designed to reduce dropout rates. Read more about what states are doing–and what they can pursue–in our September 2013 policy brief: The Attendance Imperative.
Read the full Accountable for Attendance brief here
Read a summary here
November 20th, 2013
Every study we’ve ever seen on chronic absence shows that students who miss too much school are less likely to succeed academically and more likely to drop out of high school. But the question lingers: Did the missed days cause the academic trouble, or do struggling students simply miss school more often? The logical follow up question is: Does improving a student’s attendance lead to academic gains and a better chance of graduating?
Now, a three-year study of students in New York City shows that when student improved their attendance, their outcomes are better! They are more likely to stay in school and show slight but significant gains in grade point averages.
“Meeting the Challenge of Combating Chronic Absence,” produced by Johns Hopkins University researchers Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes, explores a rich vein of data generated from a three-year pilot program conducted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s task force on truancy, chronic absence and school engagement. The pilot began in 2010 with 25 schools and expanded to 100 in the 2012-13 school year, eventually reaching 80,000 students. The pilot included elementary, middle and high schools and helped reduce chronic absence on campuses across the city.
Students from low-income families and those living in homeless shelters were among those who saw the biggest gains, the study showed. It also revealed that New York City’s “Success Mentors” program, in which chronically absent students are paired with mentors, was a particularly effective intervention.
For this research, Balfanz and Vaughan compared to the task force’s pilot schools with schools that had similar student populations. Among the findings:
- Students who came out of chronic absenteeism in 2009-2010 were 20% more likely to remain in school three years later (90%) than students who became chronically absent that year (75%)
- Previously chronically absent high school students with Success Mentors were 52% more likely to remain in school the following year than equivalent comparison students who did not receive mentors.
- Students who become chronically absent see declines in average GPA (from 72% to 67%, dropping from a C to a D) while those who exit chronic absenteeism see improvement (from 72% to 73%), a statistically significant difference given that these are cumulative GPAs which are harder to move. GPAs of students who continue to not be chronically absent continue to improve in the second year after exiting chronic absenteeism.
- Chronic absenteeism is typically the first off-track indicator to develop, before students exhibit disciplinary issues. For 86% of students suspended in sample schools in 2012-13, attendance issues were the first warning sign to develop.
“The New York City data indicate that helping students exit chronic absenteeism is one of the strongest dropout prevention strategies available, and suggest that chronic absenteeism is not only a good predictor of dropping out, but also a leading cause,” Balfanz and Byrnes wrote.
Other findings include:
- Task force schools significantly and consistently outperformed comparison schools in reducing chronic absenteeism.
- In statistically significant ways, students in the task force schools were less likely to be chronically absent and more likely to be solid attenders than students in comparison schools.
- Students in poverty at task force schools were 15% less likely to be chronically absent than similar students at comparison schools.
- Students in temporary shelters who were in task force schools—a major focus of the task force efforts—were 31% less likely to be chronically absent than similar students at comparison schools.
- Success Mentors, and their supporting infrastructure, were the most effective component of the task force’s effort across all school types. Previously chronically absent students who had mentors gained almost two additional weeks (9 days) of school per student, per year.
- In the 25% of schools with the greatest impacts, chronically absent students supported by Success Mentors gained, on average, more than a month of school
- Previously chronically absent students in 2012-13 with Success Mentors gained 51,562 additional days of school compared to previously chronically absent students without mentors at comparison schools; and 92,277 additional days compared to comparison school students without mentors during the three-year initiative.
“The NYC mayor’s task force to combat chronic absenteeism, along with emerging efforts in a few other sites (such as Baltimore and Oakland), demonstrate that we have a powerful untapped tool at our disposal to close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, improve college and career readiness, and decrease crime and social welfare costs—that is, organizing and applying ourselves to get our students to school every day without fail,” Balfanz and Byrnes wrote.
To download the full report, click here.
November 18th, 2013
For the past three years, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has conducted a pilot program in New York City schools aimed at reducing chronic absence and truancy. On Wednesday his office and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are hosting an online summit for city leaders, advocates and community partners that presents new research on why reducing chronic absence matters and the core steps that any community can take to improve school attendance. Spots are limited, so register now for this free event at 11 a.m. EST Wednesday.
The webcast will include:
- Dr. Robert Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University researcher, sharing his new research on effects of the city’s three-year pilot program, especially its Success Mentors program, on reducing chronic absence for students in 100 schools.
- A presentation on Core Action Steps for Cities and others to drive change led by Balfanz and Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang. The steps include: Raising Awareness; Mobilizing Interagency Partners; Utilizing Data; Creating School-Wide Systems for Success; and Deploying School-Based Success Mentors.
- A question and answer session from 12:-12:30 p.m. for online summit participants.
If you need additional information, please contact Allie Skayne at email@example.com or 212-788-9395. Learn about the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement by visiting NYC.gov/EveryStudent.