While the reasons for absence may vary (ranging from illness to lack of adequate transportation, bullying, or suspensions and expulsions) the results are the same––when students aren’t in school, they miss out on valuable opportunities to grow and learn, leading to negative outcomes in achievement and decreased graduation rates.
The report offers a broad analysis of national trends and highlights ways in which data can be a crucial tool in reducing rates of chronic absence. Data can help stakeholders assess the size and scope of the problem, determine which students are most affected, and enable districts to design more effective, targeted, and equitable interventions.
Absence and Equity
“Chronic absence data casts a spotlight on where we as a country have failed to provide all students with an equal opportunity to receive a quality education,” said Hedy N. Chang, a co-author of the report and executive director of Attendance Works.
Chronic absence affects every state in the country. But since rates of chronic absence aren’t evenly distributed, data can show where are higher among certain populations or geographic areas. Nationally, rates of chronic absence are higher for low-income students, students with disabilities, students of color, and students experiencing homelessness.
However, the report also urges stakeholders to prioritize local data in coming up with solutions, rather than generalize based on national trends. For instance, in Alabama and Mississippi, white students are more likely to be chronically absent than African American students, counter to national averages.
“Such data reveals the critical importance of avoiding making any assumptions and instead using data to understand local realities,” the report says.
To complement the release of the Attendance Works report, the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution developed an interactive map tool that makes it easy for anyone to track chronic absence data for the 2015-2016 school year (both aggregated and across subgroups) at national, state, district, and school levels.
Data in Action
Several states and districts have been using chronic absence data to drive positive local change. For example, the report highlights an effort by E3 Alliance to collect more detailed information in 2013 about spikes in absenteeism among Central Texas students. After determining that a significant cause of absence was flu-related, E3 Alliance and their partners launched a large-scale, school-based “Kick the Flu” immunization campaign that has been named a national model by the CDC.
In 2016, the campaign provided vaccinations for nearly 40,000 students in elementary and middle schools across 15 school districts in Central Texas. A 2017 evaluation found that Kick the Flu successfully reduced student absences and increased state funding based upon improved attendance.
How Communities Can Help
Data Matters also shows how all members of the community can get involved, highlighting ways that various stakeholders can marshal data to build strong, forward-looking solutions.
“Everyone using chronic absence data, from administrators to teachers to elected officials and community organizations, needs to make sure that data is used to drive positive problem-solving, and not blame,” said Robert Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.
For instance, school leaders can engage students and families in attendance awareness, identify community needs, and provide additional supports to students at risk of chronic absence. District leaders can establish attendance goals, review attendance policies, provide materials and supports for positive engagement, and collaborate with community partners.
And finally, state education departments can offer guidance and materials on effective strategies, establish professional learning networks, or convene local stakeholders to develop regional solutions.
“We must all use this new educational metric of chronic absence to interrupt patterns of inequity and improve outcomes for all children, particularly our most vulnerable students who deserve an equal opportunity to learn and thrive,” said Chang.
Learn more about the GradNation State Activation initiative
The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson to increase high school graduation rates by encouraging statewide innovation and collaboration, sharing that knowledge and replicating what works, and developing successful models all states can replicate.
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The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below:
These six platform areas are based on the collective experience and expertise of individuals at organizations engaged with young people across the country, the experience of young people themselves, and our own research. The platform areas are a statement of best practice – they are what has been demonstrated to work to improve graduation outcomes for young people.:
Join two School District of University leaders – Gary Spiller, executive director of the Office of Student Support and Innovative Services, and Nancy Cambria, director of communications – as they discuss the district’s use of social-emotional practices, prioritization of youth voice, and its emphasis on supporting the health and well-being of all children.
Last month, we publicly launched the YES Project with a panel at ASU + GSV that focused on the power of connection and how the business community, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists can help link youth to new opportunities.
Adelante Mujeres’ mission is to provide holistic education and empowerment opportunities to Latina women and their families. Part ofl this mission is to increase graduation rates of Latinos in her community.
The following grants and funding opportunities are currently accepting applicants. These grants are not offered through America's Promise Alliance, but they each relate to our Five Promises. If you have questions about these opportunities, please follow the links provided in each item.
A recent situation involving a first-grade student in the University City School District prompted teachers and administrators to consider an unconventional approach.
Rather than immediately focus on any instruction or behavior in the classroom, the district sought to provide the student and his family with basic needs – a trip to the doctor, food and toiletry items.