Spurred by Statistics, Districts Combat Absenteeism
As policymakers debate the merits of new tests and intervention strategies to improve student achievement, some districts are exploring a more basic warning sign: Are students even showing up?
A growing consensus of research points to chronic absence—defined by the national policy group Attendance Counts as missing 10 percent of school or more—as one of the strongest and most often overlooked indicators of a student’s risk of becoming disengaged, failing courses, and eventually dropping out of school.
“Attendance doesn’t really rise to the top” in school improvement discussions, said Jane Sundius, the director of the Education and Youth Development Program at the Open Society Institute in Baltimore, which coordinates and supports attendance and discipline-related research in the city. “We get into the cycle where [intervention] has to be about student achievement, so we get into the habit of just counting bodies for attendance. But all of a sudden, we have research that shows, in fact, attendance is a really remarkable indicator. It’s easy to understand; it’s available on every child, every week, every day; and it both predicts failure and acts as...
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