Why Does School Attendance Matter?

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How many missed days of school is too many? Research indicates missing 10% or more of school days puts the student into the chronically absent category. At first glance, you might assume missing too many days of schools has only short-term consequences for the student.

But the study Looking Forward to High School and College: Middle Grade Indicators of Why_School_Attendance_Matters.pngReadiness in Chicago Public Schools finds students who are chronically absent in the middle grades, as well as failing academic courses, are at a much higher rate of being off-track by ninth grade, and eventually dropping out of school.

The University of Chicago found that even more than race and economic status, attendance and academic performance in English and Math are most correlated to high school completion, and that improving grades and attendance from 5th through 8th grade is associated with substational difference in high school outcomes.

This research combined with other data regarding behavior is part of what led OnTrack Greenville's mission to help identify students who are at-risk of dropping out, and surrounding them with the right interventions at the right time to help them succeed. 

In order to pinpoint chronically absent students earlier, OnTrack Greenville partnered with Greenville County Schools, the largest school district in South Carolina, to build GCSource, an in-house data management system powered by Oracle Business Intelligence. 

Within GCSource, the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) dashboard reports real-time data on student indicators - including attendance, but also behavior and course performance. The data from GCSource, along with other student information, is analyzed during a weekly EWRS team meeting in an effort to determine the underlying root causes for a student being off track.

Is it a transportation issue for the family? Is it student health related? Is the student dealing with another issue that a community service might be able to provide assistance? These issues and more are uncovered in each EWRS meeting, along with specific plans to help students when and where they need it most, through a collective team effort including teachers, social workers, school personnel and community partners. 

Across the country, other school districts are implementing measures to try and reduce chronic absenteeism within their schools. In an editorial recently published in the Omaha World Herald, "In the 2015-16 school year, more than 29,000 Nebraska students missed 18 days or more. Omaha Public Schools (OPS) plans to set a goal for each school to reduce its rate of chronic absenteeism by half over 10 years." 

Each school that meets its goal will receive a "bump" in the state's school classification system. OPS plans to start mailing attendance report cards to parents this spring letting them know how many days their student has missed, and how the relates to their peers. 

We know chronic absenteeism is a real problem and can have long-term negative consequences for students. But through early intervention, parent education and coordinated school and community efforts, we have the ability to help a student get back on track before it's too late.



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