September 13th, 2012
Utah study: Chronically absent students 7.4 times more likely to drop out
It’s been well documented that chronic absence signals that a student is more likely to drop out of high school. But how much more likely?
Researchers at the University of Utah went through five years of the state’s attendance data and came up with an answer: The odds that a student will drop out are 7.4 times greater if he or she is chronically absent in any year starting in eighth grade. The new study from the Utah Education Policy Center went a step further to tease out how much of a role absenteeism plays, as opposed to other risk factors. For instance, are students dropping out because they’re chronically absent, or because the absences are pulling down their grade point averages?
The analysis showed that “70 percent of the relationship between chronic absenteeism and dropping out can be accounted for by the indirect effects…and 30 percent of the relationship between chronic absenteeism and dropping out is completely independent of GPA.”
That’s a powerful influence. The study, which looked at attendance records for more than 587,000 K-12 students across Utah, found some interesting patterns:
- While Utah public schools have a 95 percent average attendance rate, 13.5 percent of its students were chronically absent.
- Low-income students were 1.9 times more likely to be chronically absent.
- Homeless students were 2.5 times more likely to be chronically absent, with the highest rates among those living in shelters or motels.
- Mobile students who moved in and out of schools during the academic year were 4.2 times more likely to be chronically absent.
- While chronic absence is more likely among students of color, the vast majority of Utah students with poor attendance, are white, proficient in English and not considered mobile.
- On average, being chronically absent in one grade increased the odds of being chronically absent in the next grade by nearly 13 time
- The chronic absence rate in kindergarten was 16 percent, higher than ninth grade but lower than the final three years of high school.
- More than 25 percent of the seniors who had been chronically absent at some point between their eight grade and junior year dropped out of high school.