Attendance measures indicate whether students are present and ready to learn.
School engagement and participation are a focus of educators as they are clearly linked to achievement and dropout rates. In order to learn, a student has to be both physically and mentally present in the classroom, on a consistent basis, ready to receive instruction. Students who are in class, on time, and behaving well are more likely to be actively and productively engaged in their own education. Conversely, students who are moving frequently between schools may be less likely to be engaged in their learning, as is a student who is frequently absent. Additionally, a high rate of mobility at a particular school can adversely affect every student at that school.
Measures of engagement and participation vary. However, research has proven that high rates of absenteeism, tardiness, and mobility signal disruptions in the continuity and quality of a student’s learning. Moreover, high rates of absenteeism can lead to course failure and, eventually, dropping out of school. Fortunately for educators, student attendance information is accessible throughout the school year, often before course performance data is available. As a result, these measures are powerful and useful early indicators for identifying students in need of immediate intervention. Furthermore, for a student who is participating in an intervention, engagement and participation measures can also provide educators with an important measure of the “dosage” of the intervention.
When viewed together, attendance, tardiness, mobility, dropout rate and participation metrics help educators understand the true story of how actively and productively individual students, groups of students, and their parents are engaged in school.
Attendance metrics such as the Average Daily Attendance metric are used at the campus and district levels to gain a broad picture of the attendance habits of a school or district as a whole. Additionally, many states use an Average Daily Attendance measure to determine funding for a campus or district.
Detailed attendance data allows educators to implement consistent and timely responses to attendance (e.g., adult contact after a student's second absence). Educators can develop individual student intervention plans aimed at furthering student-teacher trust and student ownership of and engagement in academics – two conditions which research suggests are influential in improving attendance.
Monitoring attendance gives educators a picture of which students may need interventions to avoid the following research-based outcomes:
- High rates of absence are likely to lead to course failure and, over the long term, greater likelihood of dropping out of school.
- Classroom achievement, especially in math, is very sensitive to attendance: absences of even two weeks during one school year matters (Balfanz & Byrnes, 2012).
- Attendance, not prior test scores, is the single largest variable in course failures among Chicago freshmen. In fact, course attendance has been shown to be eight times more predictive of course failure in 9th grade than 8th grade test scores. Practically speaking, Chicago 9th graders who miss more than two weeks of school, on average, fail at least two classes. Moreover, 9th graders who enter with high 8th grade test scores, but miss two weeks of school per semester, are more likely to fail a course than 9th graders with low test scores who miss just one week (Allensworth & Easton, 2007).
- Chicago 9th graders demonstrating high levels of absenteeism (missing one month or more of school) have a less than 10% chance of graduating (Allensworth & Easton, 2007).
- Among Philadelphia high school students, the number of absences during the first 30 days of 9th grade was found to be the most powerful predictor of later academic failure among all risk factors (Neild & Balfanz, 2006).
- Among Philadelphia middle schoolers, 6th and 8th graders with less than 80% attendance for the year had a 75% chance or greater of dropping out of school (Neild & Balfanz, 2006).
On the positive side, active and comprehensive attendance interventions pay off quickly (Balfanz & Byrnes, 2012).
The following metrics are documented in this section:
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