School & District Management What the Research Says

Students’ ‘Commuting Stress’ Can Worsen Absenteeism

By Sarah D. Sparks — October 22, 2019 1 min read

The rise in absenteeism often seen when students move from middle to high school may come in part from more difficult commutes to school, according to a study in the American Educational Research Journal.

Johns Hopkins University researchers mapped the changing commutes of more than 2,800 Baltimore students as they transitioned from 8th to 9th grades. While the majority of middle school students in the city attend schools close to home, rising 9th graders are assigned to a high school based on their top five choices, not by location, requiring many to use public transportation for the first time or extend their commute.

The researchers found that among students who lived at the same address for both years, moving to high school reduced the proportion of students who could walk to school from 45 percent to 7 percent. It doubled the average number of vehicles used in the commute and increased travel time by more than 15 minutes, to an average of more than a half hour each way. Ninth graders missed more than 22 school days on average, twice as many as 8th graders, and chronic absenteeism doubled, from 18 percent to 38 percent.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 23, 2019 edition of Education Week as Students’ ‘Commuting Stress’ Can Worsen Absenteeism

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