US: 5 to 7.5 million students miss about one month of school yearly
WORLD / U.S. – Every year, an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million U.S. students miss nearly a month of school.
It’s pretty obvious that if a kid doesn’t go to school every day, he’s bound to miss some important material and that he will likely have a hard time catching up to his peers. Absences add up; according to an Attendance Works study, “students with more absences have skill levels one to two years below their peers”. The current national focus on developing curriculum and instruction and agreeing to Common Core standards may be misplaced, suggests Attendance Works director Hedy Chang.
Students are absent for a variety of reasons. Resmovits’ report on Huffpost mentioned Las Vegas’ Chapparal High School and the issues they faced with absenteeism. Its counselor noted that many of its students live in foster care or homeless shelters. The nonexistence of a stable family nucleus, financial problems and personal responsibilities such as caring for younger siblings have affected attendance, leading to poor performance in the school.
Fourth grade reading results from the 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress, given by the federal government, showed that students who have disabilities are more vulnerable to falling behind than students with no disabilities who missed the same number of days to school. This group of students typically misses more days of school than peers anyway, making the problem even worse.
Students reported whether they had missed no days, one to two, three to four, five to 10 or more than 10 days of school when they took the NAEP. The lowest test scores went to students who had missed three or more days out of the last month. The report indicates that this holds true for all students, no matter their ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic group. It is also true across all states and cities.
Students missing three or more days in a month scored 12 points lower on the fourth grade reading test than students with perfect attendance. This equates to more than a year of being in school. Students in eighth grade who were absent three or more days in a month scored 18 points lower than perfect-attendance peers, and this is almost two full years of schooling.
Attendance Works’ “Absences Add Up” report states that about 20 percent of students in fourth and eighth grades indicated they were absent three or more days in the month prior to taking the NAEP. That is about 15 percent of the school year if they were absent the same number of days all year.
Students living in poverty are much more likely to miss school, according to the Attendance Works report. For example, it states that students receiving free or reduced lunches were often living in poverty, and in fourth grade, these students are about 30 percent more likely than their peers to miss three or more days per month of school. This figure jumps to 40 percent for eighth graders.
Suggestions to combat absenteeism
Attendance Works recommended several steps to tackle the problem of poor attendance. These include:
- Standard definition of what “absenteeism” means nationwide
- Data collection and analysis – to be produced and made publicly available through school and district report cards. School districts can also send the data — broken down by grade, school and other indicators — to principals and teachers regularly so that they can address barriers to attendance or reach out to students with high rates of absenteeism
- Public awareness – encouraging schools to promote good attendance for all students with incentives, contests and positive messaging
- Parent engagement – provide parents with actionable, real-time data on their children’s attendance, as well as an alert if their children are accruing so many absences — excused and unexcused — that they are academically at risk
- Interventions – help schools and community partners to intervene with chronically absent students through community-wide approaches to health and transportation challenges, as well as personalized outreach
- Warning system – adopt early warning indicator systems that track attendance and other warning signs that students may need extra support or may drop out of high school.
A system that works nationwide could be a challenge to establish. However, local school districts already have the autonomy to track attendance at the very least. What they do with the data is something a policy guideline can help to spur an action plan.
With schools, it’s never about absence making the heart grow fonder, especially not for subjects like Mathematics, English and Science. The “out of sight, out of mind” argument stands, especially since repetition, familiarity and understanding through practice are crucial in developing a student’s overall appreciation of subjects taught in schools.
How is your school coping with absenteeism? Let us know!