Focus on Ninth Grade

  • Allensworth, E. M., & Easton, J. Q.What Matters for Staying On-track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools: A Close Look at Course Grades, Failures, and Attendance in the Freshman Year, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, Consortium on Chicago School Research, 2007. In this study of the freshman year of high school, researchers found that attendance in this pivotal transition year was a key indicator of whether students would finish high school. A high rate of absenteeism was identified as a key warning sign for freshmen. The study also found attendance and studying more predictive of dropout than test scores or other student characteristics.
  • Balfanz, Robert, Lisa Herzog and Douglas J. MacIver.Preventing Student Disengagement and Keeping Students on the Graduation Path in Urban Middle-Grades Schools: Early Identification and Effective Interventions, Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 223–235 Copyright 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. In this study of the freshman year of high school, researchers found that attendance in this pivotal transition year was a key indicator of whether students would finish high school.  The study also found attendance and studying more predictive of dropout than test scores or other student characteristics.
  • Roderick, Melissa et al., Preventable Failure: Improvements in Long-Term Outcomes when High Schools Focused on the Ninth Grade Year, University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, April 2014.  Research from UChicago CCSR shows that students who end their ninth-grade year on track are almost four times more likely to graduate from high school than those who are off track. In response, Chicago Public Schools launched a major effort in 2007 centered on keeping more ninth-graders on track to graduation.  The district initiative promoted the use of data to monitor students’ level of dropout risk throughout the ninth-grade year, allowing teachers to intervene before students fell too far behind. The diversity of strategies was notable — from calls home when students missed a class to algebra tutoring to homework help. Since that time, the CPS on-track rate has risen 25 percentage points, from 57 to 82 percent. This report shows that improvements in ninth grade on-track rates were sustained in tenth and eleventh grade and followed by a large increase in graduation rates.
  • Rosenkranz, Todd et al., Free to Fail or On-Track to College: Why Grades Drop When Students Enter High School and What Adults Can Do About It, University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, April 2014. High school teachers often assume freshmen are ready to take on the responsibility for managing their own academic behavior. However, students often interpret their new freedom to mean that attending classes and working hard are choices rather than responsibilities, and as a result their attendance and study habits significantly decline. Students miss almost three times as many days of school in ninth grade as in eighth grade. This increase is primarily driven by an explosion in the number of unexcused absences, which is nearly four times larger in ninth grade than in eighth grade. In 2008-09, the typical ninth-grader missed 27 days of school, with 21.4 of those days due to unexcused absences.

Focus on Middle School

  • Allensworth, Elaine M. et al.Looking Forward to High School and College:  Middle Grade Indicators of Readiness in Chicago Public Schools, University of Chicago, Consortium on Chicago School Research, November 2014. 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.
  • Destination Graduation: Sixth Grade Early Warning Indicators for Baltimore City Schools, Their Prevalence and ImpactBaltimore Education Research Consortium, Baltimore, Md. February 2011.This report examines data from the Baltimore City Public Schools to identify statistically significant, highly predictive Early Warning Indicators of non-graduation outcomes, i.e., dropout. The concentration of Early Warning Indicators identified in the report–including chronic absence, past retentions, suspensions, course failure in English and/or math–is presented for a recent cohort of Baltimore sixth graders to describe the current level of need in City Schools.

Mentoring Programs

  • Balfanz, Robert and Vaughan ByrnesMeeting the Challenge of Combating Chronic Absenteeism: Impact of the NYC Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Chronic Absenteeism and School Attendance and Its Implications for Other Cities, Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, November 2013. This report examines the impact of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s task force on truancy, chronic absenteeism and school engagement, a program that spanned 2010 to 2013 and reached more than 60,000 students in NYC public schools. The study found that students who missed at least 20 days of school per year — the definition of chronic absenteeism — had lower grades and were more likely to drop out than students with better attendance. Yet, the researchers also found these effects of absenteeism are reversible with the help of mentors, incentive programs, and awareness campaigns. Additional information can be found in the report’s Technical Appendix.
  • Christenson, S. L., Hurley, C. M., Hirsch, J. A., Kau, M., Evelo, D., & Bates, W.  Check and Connect: The role of monitors in supporting high-risk youth. Reaching Today’s Youth: The Community Circle of Caring Journal, 2, 18–21. 1997. During seven years of experience with federally funded intervention projects for high-risk youth, Check and Connect has developed a system of support that helps even the most challenging young people meet school standards. In work with secondary level students with emotional and learning disabilities, the aim was to increase school engagement and graduation rates for students at highest risk for school dropout. The system of support developed to meet these goals is a monitoring procedure referred to as “Check and Connect” facilitated by a category of professionals we call “monitors.”

Family Engagement

  • Epstein, Joyce L. and Sheldon, Steven B., Present and Accounted For: Improving Student Attendance Through Family and Community Involvement, Journal of Educational Research, vol 95, pp. 308-318, May/June 2002.  This study suggests that schools may be able to increase student attendance in elementary school by implementing specific family and community involvement activities. The study discusses the results of an analysis of longitudinal data collected on schools’ rates of daily student attendance and chronic absenteeism and on specific partnership practices that were implemented to help increase or sustain student attendance.
  • Rogers, Todd and Duncan, T., et. al. A randomized experiment using absenteeism information to “nudge” attendance, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic, Washington, DC, 2017. This controlled randomized experiment conducted in collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia found that a single postcard that encouraged guardians to improve their student’s attendance reduced absences by roughly 2.4 percent. Guardians received one of two types of message: one encouraging guardians to improve their student’s attendance or one encouraging guardians to improve their student’s attendance that also included specific information about the student’s attendance history. An additional analysis showed that the effect of the postcard did not differ between students in grades 1–8 and students in grades 9–12. More information about this approach can be found on In Class Today.
  • Rogers, Todd and Feller, Avi, Intervening through Influential Third Parties:Reducing Student Absences at Scale via Parents, Working Paper, 2017. This study analyzed whether information sent home to caregivers of K-12 students could impact chronic absence. Carefully worded messages on postcards reminded parents of the importance of absences and of their ability to influence them, added information about students’ total absences, or added the number of absences among target students’ classmates. The first two messages reduced chronic absence by as much as 10 percent across all grade levels. But messages to parents about how their children’s absences compare with students in the same class had no impact. The research shows that simple reminders to caregivers can be a strong and low-cost starting point to engage families.
  • Sheldon, Steven B. Improving Student Attendance with School, Family and Community Partnerships, Journal of Educational Research, January 2007. The author of this study used data from the state of Ohio to compare student attendance in elementary schools that developed school-wide programs of school, family, and community partnerships with the attendance of students in schools that did not develop the programs. Analyses showed that in schools working to implement school, family, and community partnerships, student attendance improved an average of .5%, whereas in comparison schools, rates of student attendance declined slightly from 1 year to the next.

Ineffectiveness of Parent Sanctions

  • Gunderson, Jessica et al.Getting Teenagers Back to School: Rethinking New York State’s Response to Chronic AbsenceVera Institute of Justice, New York, NY October 2010.This policy brief looks at one response to the statewide problem of chronic school absence in New York State: reporting parents to the child protective system. It determines that the system is ill equipped to deal with school attendance and that punitive approaches fly in the face of research on adolescent development.
  • Harris, Ronald et al., Using TANF Sanctions to Increase High School Graduation. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, September 2001, Vol. 28 Issue 3, pg. 211. The School Attendance Demonstration Project (SADP) was aimed at encouraging AFDC teens in San Diego Unified School District to finish high school. The project used a combined approach of the financial incentive in the form of a penalty for non-attendance in school, and the provision of social services. The findings indicated that SADP did not effect graduations and that at-risk teens from families receiving public assistance have on-going problems with securing an education that are difficult to correct with SADP services and sanctions.

School-Based Health Centers and Health Interventions

  • Van Cura, Maureen., The Relationship Between School-Based Health Centers, Rates of Early Dismissal From School, and Loss of Seat Time, Journal of School Health, Vol. 80, No.8, August 2010. This researcher studied two high schools in New York – one with a school-based health center and one without. Controlling for race, gender, age, poverty, and presence of a pre-existing illness, this study shows that school-based health centers have a direct impact on educational outcomes such as attendance.
  • Webber, Mayris P., et al. Burden of Asthma in Inner-City Schoolchildren: Do School-Based Health Centers Make a Difference?, Arch Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine Volume 157, February 2003. This study compared information about students at six inner-city elementary schools in the Bronx. Four of the schools had school-based health centers while two did not. Researchers looked at data regarding hospitalization, emergency department visit, and absenteeism among students with asthma. They found that access to school-based health centers reduced the rate of hospitalization and decreased absenteeism for students with asthma.
  • Woods, Elizabeth R. et al., Community Asthma Initiative: Evaluation of a Quality Improvement Program for Comprehensive Asthma Care. Pediatrics, February 20, 2012. Asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses for children in the United States, and rates have reached historically high levels nationally with large racial/ethnic health disparities. Preventive efforts to address asthma issues in early childhood have been found to return $1.46 for every dollar invested, by reducing hospital visits. Additionally, there was also a 41% reduction in missed school days, and a 50% reduction in parents missing work due to an ill child.


  • Fan, Y. & Das, K., Assessing the Impacts of Student Transportation on Public Transit, University of Minnesota, Metro Transit, Minneapolis Public Schools, Dec. 2015. Researchers analyzed a program that provided transit passes to high school students living more than 2 miles from school and all students eligible for free or reduced price meals. The analysis found that pass users had 23 percent lower absenteeism, and participated in more learning opportunities. Benefits from the ridership program were most pronounced for students eligible for free or reduced lunch and students of color. The study concluded that the program offered significant benefits to students, their families, Metro Transit, and society.
  • Gottfried, Michael A., Linking Getting to School with Going to School, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, American Educational Research Association, April 2017. Using a national large-scale dataset of children (the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011), Gottfried found that children who took the school bus to kindergarten had fewer absent days over the school year and were less likely to be chronically absent compared with children who commuted to school in any other way. Taking the bus could potentially reduce the number of U.S. public school kindergartners who are chronically absent by almost 50,000 students, according to additional analysis by Gottfried. This study was the first to address the role of school bus-taking on reducing school absences.

Research Summaries

  • Railsback, Jennifer. Increasing Student Attendance: Strategies from Research and Practice, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, June 2004. This report looks at practices and outcomes of attendance programs across the country. Although promising practices exist across the country, there are no “silver bullet” approaches proven to keep children in school. Other research has investigated how school disengagement relates to decreased attendance. In addition to asking “How can we help students deal with their problems in coming to school?” many researchers, schools, and community members are also asking, “How are the schools contributing to absenteeism and how can schools work with communities and parents to keep youngsters engaged, in school, and learning what they need to know to be successful?”
  • Schultz, Jennifer Lee and Chanelle Gandy. Increasing school attendance for K-8 students: A review of research examining the effectiveness of truancy prevention programsWilder Foundation, March 2007. This analysis examines several multi-faceted truancy prevention programs, which combine school-based, family-based, and community-based interventions. The study focused on programs for elementary and middle school students. Detailed descriptions are given of the studies, along with specific examples of what worked well and what methods were ineffective.