The Real Impact of Chronic Absenteeism

This first article in our three-part series takes a closer look at chronic absenteeism, its long-term impact and initial strategies to overcome this growing challenge. Parts two and three will highlight one school’s success in addressing absenteeism and demonstrate how technology can play an important role in solving this problem.

Where did summer go? For many educators and their families, the summer break, filled with vacations, day trips and a slower pace, seems like a distant memory. Now, with the start of the new school year, teachers and educators are focused on developing effective new strategies to drive student success and better outcomes.

September is also Attendance Awareness Month. Created by an organization called Attendance Works, the annual Attendance Awareness Campaign is a nationwide recognition of the connection between school attendance and academic achievement. The goal is to mobilize schools and communities to promote good attendance and take specific steps to address a growing challenge that confronts almost every K-12 school today: chronic absenteeism.

It’s a real issue—and a real concern. Chronic absenteeism—defined as missing 10% of school days for any reason (excused or unexcused)—adversely affects a student’s ability to learn and keep up with classmates. Worse, chronic absenteeism is proven to be an early warning sign of larger, more troubling issues, such as low levels of achievement and engagement, academic risk and even dropping out.

As a result, a majority of states are now focused on absenteeism, especially in terms of how it can contribute to school performance. When it came time to adopt a fifth and final non-academic measure of school quality or student success as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 37 state leaders chose to include student absenteeism as a key indicator for their accountability systems.

Student Attendance

A disadvantage that’s hard to overcome

All of this is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, the problem is only getting worse. According to data collected from the Office of Civil Rights, 16% of K-12 students were chronically absent in 2015-2016, up from 14% of students reported in 2013-2014.

There are many reasons why students may miss school. Poor health, trauma, parents’ working schedules, transportation issues, family responsibilities, suspension and more. Unfortunately, all of these become too common and add up to a situation where chronic absenteeism is beginning to be seen in earlier grade levels. Without the right attention or intervention, students may be inadvertently digging themselves into a hole that may be hard to climb out of later.

For example, the Healthy School Campaign cites the case where, if children are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade, they are much less likely to be reading at grade level by third grade. This has real consequences: Students who are not reading at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. While this study examined health issues such as asthma or diabetes as the cause of absenteeism, it is important to note that the long-term results of absenteeism are likely to be the same, regardless of the cause.

A data-driven approach to reducing chronic absenteeism

The question remains: What can educators do to reduce absenteeism rates? One effective way is to make better use of available data that can provide insights needed to drive positive change related to absenteeism. For example, an analytics solution can consolidate student data and give educators complete visibility into the full picture of each student, including attendance, grades, assessments, behavior, enrollment in special programs and more. Empowered with these insights, teachers can visualize potential attendance issues in time to take the best action to address the issue, not after the fact when it’s too late.

Better use of data is a powerful advantage in reducing absenteeism. For example, a research study from the Data Quality Campaign found that 91% of teachers said that they could better identify students who were not on track to be successful if they had access to data about students’ attendance history, classroom behavior, past courses and grades.

Today’s analytics applications provide intuitive dashboards and reports so educators can create dynamic watchlists and monitor important data. In the case of attendance issues, educators can determine if they may have an underlying absenteeism issue by viewing a dynamic dashboard that shows district attendance reports by school, grade and absence type.

Additional best practices

Check back for upcoming articles in our chronic absenteeism blog series for additional strategies and best practices related to reducing absenteeism and its adverse effects. In part two, we’ll take a closer look at East Central ISD in San Antonio and learn how they implemented an innovative, data-driven approach to tackle attendance issues.

Gain an edge in reducing absenteeism

Certica’s analytics solution, Videri, now makes it easy for districts to put the right information in the hands of teachers and administrators. By providing comprehensive, real-time data—such as student attendance, behavior information, assessments, grades and more—Videri provides the information educators need to reduce absenteeism and make a difference in their students’ lives.