Study of absenteeism points to opportunity for helping students

Schools can’t be effective if students don’t show up. That was the conclusion of a study of the impact of chronic absenteeism released this week by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University and the Indiana Partnerships Center.

The idea makes sense: The less often students are in class, the less they will learn. But the correlation between attendance and student achievement that the study found was striking. Students who were chronically absent, defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days, scored much lower on state tests than those with solid attendance records. And students who missed a lot of school were far less likely to graduate from high school.

“Whether a student’s absences are excused or unexcused, whether the student is cutting classes without his parents’ knowledge or going on vacation with his parents, his chronic absence negatively affects his academic performance in profound ways,” Indiana Partnerships Center director Jacqueline Garvey said in a news release.

The study looked at school-level data for a six-year period. It also tracked individual records for two cohorts of Indiana students: kindergartners and sixth-graders in 2003-04. Findings included:

— By third grade, attendance was associated with big gaps in ISTEP-Plus test scores. Students with exemplary attendance had average scores of 437 in math and 447 in English; students who were chronically absent scored 390 in math and 409 in English.
— Average eighth-grade scores for students with exemplary attendance were 571 in math and 548 in English; for chronically absent students, 507 in math and 513 in English.
— In an even more striking finding, 88 percent of students with exemplary attendance graduated from high school on time, while just 24 percent of chronically absent students Continue reading

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