Secondary School Absenteeism
These reports are organized chronologically.
- Wheaton, Ann., Most US middle and high schools start the school day too early. Students need adequate sleep for their health, safety, and academic success, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 6, 2015. Fewer than 1 in 5 middle and high schools in the U.S. began the school day at the recommended 8:30 AM start time or later during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Too-early start times can keep students from getting the sleep they need for health, safety, and academic success.
- Nauer, Kim et al, A Better Picture of Poverty: What Chronic Absenteeism and Risk Load Reveal About NYC’s Lowest-Income Elementary Schools, Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, November 2014. This report looks closely at New York City’s schools and documents the risk factors that plague struggling schools. Researchers 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 identify 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.
- Absenteeism and GPA: Exploring the top indicators of career and college readiness, Attendance Institute and the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), November 18, 2014. Elaine Allensworth, PhD, and the Lewis-Sebring Director of CCSR shares highlights from three important reports: 1. Absenteeism from Preschool to High School, 2. Looking Forward to High School and College: Middle Grade Indicators of Readiness in Chicago Public Schools, and 3. Free to Fail or On Track to College. CCSR discusses absenteeism at all grade levels as well as which school indicators connect to success in the middle grades, high school as well as career and college.
- 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. 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.
- Mac Iver, Martha Abele and Douglas J. Mac Iver, If We Build It, We Will Come: Impacts of a Summer Robotics Program on Regular Year Attendance in Middle School, Baltimore Education Research Consortium, September 2014. We know that quality summer programs help students return to school with stronger skills for the new year. But can these programs spur better attendance? A study of a robotics program for Baltimore middle school students suggests that the engagement and interest generated over the summer carries into the school year. The STEM program, developed by the Baltimore City Public Schools and supported by the U.S. Department of Education and local foundations, provided math and science instruction with an eye toward improving achievement and engagement. The hands-on program gave sixth- to eight-grade students a chance to build a robot. These robots then competed in a city-wide tournaments. The program hasn’t met all of its goals: enrollment and attendance in the program has fallen short, and math achievement hasn’t risen significantly. But an analysis found that school-year attendance rates are much higher for the students who attend the summer robotic programs than for similar students who didn’t. The results are particularly strong for the students with the weakest math skills.
- Olson, Linda S., Why September Matters: Improving Student Attendance, Baltimore Education Research Consortium, July 2014. Absenteeism in the first month of school can predict poor attendance patterns throughout the year, providing an early warning sign for parents and educators to intervene and put students back on track, according to this brief which examines attendance in the Baltimore City Public Schools for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in September and throughout the rest of the 2012-13 school year. Olson found that: students who missed fewer than 2 days in September typically had good attendance rates for the entire year; half the students who missed 2-4 days in September went on to miss a month or more of school; and nearly 9 out of 10 students who missed more than 4 days in September were chronically absent that year.
- Goodman, Joshua, Flaking Out: Student Absences and Snow Days as Disruptions of Instructional Time, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 20221, June 2014. This report examines the effects of moderate snow on poor student absences, which was twice as large as for non-poor students. It was also twice as large for black and Hispanic students as for white and Asian students. The author speculates that this may be caused by dependence on “forms of transportation more likely to fail during snowstorms, such as public transit or low quality cars” or to placing “less value on school attendance.” Extremely snowy days, days with 10 or more inches of snow, produce more school closures but no additional absences because students cannot be absent when a school is closed. Previous studies finding that closures had large achievement effects may have mistakenly attributed the effect of individual absences to school closures. The author concludes that teachers deal well with coordinated disruptions of instructional time but poorly with disruptions that affect different students at different times. The negative effect that absences have on achievement suggests that lengthening the school day or year will not necessarily have the desired effect of raising student performance, but that policies to improve attendance might help.
- 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.*Read the CCSR April 24, 2014 press release, which includes a summary of the companion report Free to Fail or On-Track to College: Why Grades Drop When Students Enter High School and What Adults Can Do About It (also posted on this web page).
- 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. This report details the dramatic drop in grades, attendance, and academic behavior that occurs between eighth and ninth grade and demonstrates how intense monitoring and support can help schools keep more ninth-graders on track to graduation.*Read the CCSR April 24, 2014 press release, which includes a summary of the companion report Preventable Failure: Improvements in Long-Term Outcomes when High Schools Focused on the Ninth Grade Year (also posted on this web page)
- Balfanz, Robert and Vaughan Byrnes, Meeting 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.
- Lochmiller, Chad R., Court-Assisted Truancy Programs: A 2013 Survey of Indiana School Superintendents, prepared for the Indiana Department of Education by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University, October 2013. School superintendents were surveyed to determine whether the state’s school corporations had established court-assisted truancy programs and, if they had, what support these programs provide. CEEP found court-assisted truancy programs operating in only a few school corporations across the state and are a relatively new phenomenon. These programs support students who have missed 10 or more days of school and connect them with the juvenile justice system and other social services in order to encourage regular school attendance.
- Lochmiller, Chad R., Improving Student Attendance in Indiana’s Schools: Synthesis of Existing Research Related to Student Absenteeism and Effective, Research-Based Interventions, prepared for the Indiana Department of Education by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University, October 2013. Recent research completed by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University indicate that chronically absent students in Indiana’s public schools perform lower on student learning assessments. Further, students who are routinely absent are also more likely to drop out of high school. During the 2013 legislative session, state lawmakers enacted new legislation that redefined chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy in Indiana, and also introduced new requirements for the schools. This review focuses on research related to predictors of student absenteeism and truancy, the effects of the student absenteeism and truancy, and research-based interventions that improve student attendance and reduce truancy as reported in the literature between 2000 and 2013. This report also proposes a model attendance plan that schools and school corporations in Indiana can adapt to comply with the new state requirements.
- Olson, Linda S., Faith Connolly, and Alok H. Kommajesula. Family League 2011-12 Out of School Time Programs in Baltimore City, Baltimore Education Research Consortium, Baltimore, MD, October 2013. This report examines the relationship between out-of-school time programs and school absence. Through the Family League’s education initiative, thousands of children in Baltimore have access to quality after school and summer learning opportunities. Among students who regularly attended OST programs, they had higher promotion rates than their peers, entered 6th and 9th grade with higher school attendance (important transition grades to middle and high school), and were significantly less likely to be chronically absent.
- From Absent to Present: Reducing Teen Chronic Absenteeism in New York City. Youth Justice Board, Center for Court Innovation, June 2013. Why do 40 percent of New York City high school students miss a month of school each year? The Center for Court Innovation went directly to the source and asked 17 high school students serving on its Youth Justice Board to research the issue. After a year of research that included meeting with student focus groups, teachers, parents, and policy makers, the students made ten recommendations to Chancellor Dennis Walcott on how to reduce chronic absenteeism. Suggestions ranged from taking a closer look at school security to providing peer mentors to students who are frequently absent.
- West, Thomas C., Just the Right Mix: Identifying Potential Dropouts in Montgomery County Public Schools Using an Early Warning Indicators Approach. Office of Shared Accountability, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD, March 2013. Each school year, roughly a thousand students drop out of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). However, unlike other large, urban school districts where students who drop out skip school and are suspended often (Balfanz & Byrnes, 2010), students who drop out of MCPS are present in school; they just are not doing well academically. These students are generally coded as dropping out of school due to: 1) a lack of personal motivation or interest to continue their education, or to 2) a lack of academic success including low grades and/or retention. These are both signs of a lack of student engagement (i.e., investment and motivation towards school). This study examines the early warning indicators (attendance, behavior and coursework patterns) for students in grades 1, 3, 6, and 9 who eventually drop out of school.
- Ginsburg, Alan, Time for Learning: States and Districts. An Exploratory Analysis of NAEP Data, prepared for the National Assessment Governing Board, February 2013. This report is part of an ongoing project to use the data generated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (dubbed the “Nation’s Report Card”) to provide more context for student performance. Mr. Ginsburg’s analysis adds to growing evidence that student absenteeism can hamstring a district’s performance on the NAEP. In large urban districts, 8th-grade students who missed three or more days in the previous month of school had an average mathematics score of 260 on the 2011 NAEP, 21 points lower than those who missed no school. In some districts, the gap was even wider: 25 points in New York City, 24 in Chicago and the District of Columbia.
- Chronic Absence in the Sacramento Unified School District, University of California, Davis, Center for Regional Change, 2012. The UC Davis Center for Regional change conducted an assessment of chronic absence in the Sacramento Unified School District, describing prevalence, costs, characteristics of chronically absent students, barriers to attendance, and building partnerships that eliminate barriers to attendance.
- Skipping to Nowhere: Students share their views about missing school, Get Schooled Foundation. August 2012. In a report by the Get Schooled Foundation, students share their views about missing school and admit to frequently skipping school without parental knowledge. The report found that more than 61 percent of school skippers cite boredom as the cause for cutting class and more than 80 percent of students who skip school once a week think it does not affect their grades or decrease their chances of graduating.
- Lotyczewski, Bohdan S. and Guillermo Montes, United Way After-School Program Evaluation, Children’s Institute, July 2012. In 2012, United Way of Rochester, New York partnered with the Children’s Institute and the Rochester City School District to evaluate the effectiveness of its after-school programs. The results show that kids in United Way’s after-school programs attend 6,100 more days of school than their peers and their GPAs were .87 points higher than their classmates. Results from the first year evaluation showed that kids in after-school had a GPA increase of .25 points. Read the Impact Briefing released in December 2013.
- Mac Iver, Martha and Matthew Messel, Predicting High School Outcomes in the Baltimore City Public Schools, The Council of the Great City Schools, Senior Urban Education Research Fellowship Series, vol. 7, Summer 2012. This study examines the relationship between 8th and 9th grade early warning indicators as predictors of graduation outcomes, as well as the relationship between 9th grade indicators and college enrollment outcomes. It suggests early interventions to prevent chronic absence and course failure are crucial to increasing graduation rates. Analyses of September attendance data for first-time 9th graders indicate: 1) though student attendance in September is generally better than attendance over the full year, the two measures are correlated closely; 2) nearly 75% of those who missed 2 or more days in September were chronically absent for the entire year; 3) September attendance alone is a stronger predictor of 9th grade course failure than 8th grade attendance, being male, overage for grade, and 8th grade test scores (full year attendance, as expected, is a better predictor than September attendance, but the powerful early warning indicator in September comes in time to intervene and prevent further absences); and 4) positive, personal outreach to students and families in September helps improve attendance and prevent chronic absence.
- Balfanz, Robert and Vaughan Byrnes. The Importance of Being in School: A Report on Absenteeism in the Nation’s Public Schools. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools. May 2012. Researchers evaluated chronic absence data from six states—Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon and Rhode Island—to assess trends and predict the size of the nation’s attendance challenge. A national rate of 10 percent chronic absenteeism seems conservative and it could be as high as 15 percent, meaning that 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent. The six states reported chronic absenteeism rates from 6 percent to 23 percent, with high poverty urban areas reporting up to one-third of students chronically absent and rural areas showing one in four students.
- Sanchez, Monika. Truancy and Chronic Absence in Redwood City. John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities. Palo Alto, Calif. April 2012.A study of chronic absenteeism in the Redwood City School District found the highest rates in kindergarten and 12th grade. The study also found that the largest, statistically significant factor in whether a student was chronically absent was their chronic absence status in the prior year. Missing school also played a role in student academic outcomes. After controlling for background factors, 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 grades 3 through 8, as well as on Grade Point Average in high school students. Middle and higher achieving students were found to be at greatest risk of academic decline due to chronic absence. The study also found that 18 percent of students in the child welfare system were chronically absent, in contrast to 8 percent of students who were not in the system.
- Read the summary snapshot Chronic Absence in Redwood City, California Schools
- Read the policy fact sheet Collaborative Approaches to Reducing Absenteeism Among K-12 Students
- 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 Distict 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.
- Mac Iver, Martha A. Moving Forward to Improve Graduation Rates in Baltimore City, Baltimore Education Research Consortium, Baltimore, Md. April 2011.A study of two first‐time ninth grade cohorts in Baltimore City Schools, followed forward to their on‐time graduation year and one year beyond, found that increasing ninth grade attendance and course passing rates is the most important lever for increasing the graduation rate. The probability of graduation increases steadily as ninth grade attendance rates increase. More than eight in 10 who attended school at least 95% of the time in ninth grade went on to graduate. By contrast, the graduation rate was lower than 20% for those ninth graders who attended less than 70% of the time.
- Destination Graduation: Sixth Grade Early Warning Indicators for Baltimore City Schools, Their Prevalence and Impact, Baltimore 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 report also considers the impact of single versus multiple indicators, and the number of students identified as at-risk of being off-track to eventual graduation. Then, the concentration of Early Warning Indicators–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. Policy makers and practitioners can use this report to determine whether Early Warning Indicators might be used for targeted interventions and educational supports.
- Gunderson, Jessica et al. Getting Teenagers Back to School: Rethinking New York State’s Response to Chronic Absence, The Vera 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, which handles allegations of child abuse and neglect. 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. The report concludes that the first step toward more effectively addressing chronic absence among teens may be to remove them from the jurisdiction of the child protective system, while simultaneously creating a less adversarial set of interventions to keep youth connected to schools. This would allow the child welfare system to focus on the most vulnerable abused and neglected children in the state.
- Mac Iver, Martha A., Gradual Disengagement: A Portrait of the 2008-2009 Dropouts in Baltimore City Schools, Baltimore Education Research Consortium, August 2010. The majority of students who eventually drop out of high school enter 9th grade with a pattern of chronic absenteeism that goes back at least several years, the study shows. Many have been retained and are behind at least one grade. It is critical to begin interventions in middle school. For those already in high school who have become entrenched in patterns of chronic absenteeism and course failure and have not succeeded in earning many high school course credits, it appears that more non-traditional options for earning a diploma would be helpful. At the same time, a more intensive focus on intervention and prevention during the middle grades is one of the most crucial directions for reducing the dropout rate.
- Allensworth, Elaine and Easton, John. 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, July 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, described as missing 10 percent or more of the school year, 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. In fact 9th grade attendance was a better predictor of dropout than 8th grade test scores.
- Silver, David et al. What Factors Predict High School Graduation in Los Angeles Unified School District, California Dropout Research Project Report #14, UC Santa Barbara Graduate School of Education, June 2008. In collaboration with LAUSD, the authors of this study analyzed district data to track the educational progress of all first-time 2001-02 9th graders from the 6th grade through to their expected graduation in the spring of 2005. This group consisted of 48,561 students who attended 163 LAUSD middle and high schools. The analysis of transcript records, standardized test scores, and a broad database of student and school characteristics exposes troubling rates of academic failure, but it also offers reasons for hope, demonstrating that academic experiences and school factors play a much larger role than student demographics in determining graduation rates.
- Ou, Suh-Ruu and Reynolds, Arthur. Predictors of Educational Attainment in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, School Psychology Quarterly, v. 23, no. 2, p. 199-229, 2008. This study attempts to determine the graduation likelihood of a sample of 12-year-old students in the Chicago area who were at risk of not completing school due to poverty. Several variables, including number of absences, were significant predictors of high school completion. Absences across the sample ranged from 2 to 17 days missed. Results found that each additional absence above five days missed decreases a student’s likelihood of graduation by 7%. If the number of absences of a student is increased from five days missed to 10 days missed, the likelihood this student will graduate decreases by 35%. Students with the most absences (17 days absent) thus had a graduation likelihood of only 15% at the age of 12.
- 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. This article considers the practical, conceptual, and empirical foundations of an early identification and intervention system for middle-grades schools to combat student disengagement and increase graduation rates in our nation’s cities. It offers data revealing how four predictive indicators reflecting poor attendance, misbehavior, and course failures in sixth grade can be used to identify 60% of the students who will not graduate from high school. Fortunately, by combining effective whole-school reforms with attendance, behavioral, and extra-help interventions, graduation rates can be substantially increased.