Student Well-Being What the Research Says

Good Principals Linked to Less Absenteeism

By Denisa R. Superville — February 11, 2020 1 min read
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Effective principals can play a huge role in reducing student absenteeism, finds a study in Educational Researcher. The effects are even more profound in urban and high-poverty schools, where absenteeism rates are generally higher and district leaders often struggle to hire and retain highly effective principals.

Brendan Bartanen, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Texas A&M University, drew on statewide data for about 3,800 Tennessee principals from the 2006-07 and the 2016-17 school years and used value-added models to estimate principals’ effects. He found that changing a principal at the 25th percentile in principal quality, based on student test-score growth, to one at the 75th percentile lowered student absenteeism by an average of 0.8 percentage points—the equivalent of 1.4 school days.

The principals who succeeded most in driving down student absenteeism were not necessarily the ones driving big test-score gains. Effective leadership is multidimensional, Bartanen said, and just focusing on finding leaders to boost test scores, “might be a bit short-sighted because those may not be the principals who are going to give you the best improvements in other outcomes that we care about.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 12, 2020 edition of Education Week as Good Principals Linked to Less Absenteeism


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