Student attendance is fundamental to the success of every school. If students don’t show up for class, their education suffers, and they set a negative precedent for the future. Chronically absent students are more likely to drop out of high school. Research shows that high school dropouts are more likely to experience poverty and poor health as adults. This article explores some of the ways that schools can solve absenteeism so that their students learn and become responsible adults.
Understand What Chronic Absenteeism Looks Like
It’s important that schools monitor their attendance rates. Research has found that students who miss just 10% of the school year have a higher risk of dropping out or becoming involved in crime. When a school recognizes students with excessive absences, they usually take action and provide intervention services. However, more attention needs to be paid to all students who regularly miss school. This approach will reduce negative consequences for all students.
Utilize Attendance Data
Most schools track two metrics: average daily attendance (ADA) and truancy. ADA rates can be deceptive since they look at attendance for all of the students across the entire year. Even if ADA is high, there could still be hundreds of students that are chronically absent. Truancy isn’t the best metric to look at either since it usually only identifies students who have unexcused absences. Also, many schools don’t begin to record truancy rates until middle school.
In order to gather effective data, schools should track chronic absenteeism and regular attendance in addition to ADA and truancy. Chronic absenteeism looks at all forms of absenteeism: excused, unexcused, and suspensions. This helps schools gain a more accurate picture of absent students. Schools should look at every type of absence because the ultimate goal is to make sure students attend school. If students are absent for any reason, they risk falling behind with school work and in life.
The best way to stop chronic absenteeism is to prevent it in the first place. Step one is to get the community involved. If your data shows that you have a chronic absenteeism problem, engage with parents. Make it clear that attendance is important via letters-to-home and back-to-school meetings. Talk to your students about the importance of attendance in the classroom and in special assemblies. You can also get important community organizations and members involved that will help spread your message.
Schools can also use motivation to encourage students to regularly attend. For example, when 90% of a class’ students attend, each student can receive a prize like a homework pass. Schools can also implement programs that honor students with exceptional attendance rates. These types of incentive programs will help inspire students to attend school every day.