- Phyllis Jordan, editorial director of FutureEd, a nonpartisan think tank at Georgetown University, and co-author of a recent report, "Who’s In: Chronic Absenteeism Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)," shares her thoughts on the goals California schools should set regarding school attendance in an article for EdSource.
- Recent data for the state of California, which is one of 36 states including chronic absenteeism in its new accountability system, shows that more than one in 10 students are chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of the school year in excused or unexcused absences.
- Jordan suggests that California should clearly define the way chronic absenteeism is measured and set tough aspirational goals for improvement, but also give schools credit for improving attendance rates.
As a part of their new ESSA accountability plans, most states are listing chronic absenteeism as a performance measure. This is because chronic absenteeism is a major predictor of student failure in schools. For example, a 2014 study of California students from Attendance Works indicated that “only 17% of the students who were chronically absent in both kindergarten and 1st grade were reading proficiently by 3rd grade, compared with 64 percent of those with good attendance in the early years… In addition, chronic absence in middle school is another red flag that a student will drop out of high school. By high school, attendance is a better dropout indicator than test scores,” Education Week reported.
Students miss school for a number of reasons, such as illness, bullying and turmoil at home. Another factor impacting school attendance is the opioid crisis. Jordan suggests that home visits may be the best way for school leaders to discover the issues involved and to help parents address them.
As chronic absenteeism continues to have a growing impact on student and school performance, schools need to look at old and new solutions for dealing with the issue. Great teaching and great curriculum matter little if students are not in the classroom to receive instruction.