School Attendance

School attendance is critical to learning and staying connected to school. Excessive absences are accompanied by decreased academic achievement and a high risk of dropout. Truancy is also a powerful predictor of delinquency (Baker, Sigman & Nugent, 2001; Loeber, Farrington & Petechuk, 2003).

This indicator can be measured by number of absences or attendance rate per reporting period (this varies by school district and grade level). One study found the following dropout risk levels by attendance, which may guide a program when setting a benchmark for what to consider individual level success (Allensworth and Easton 2007):

  • Among freshmen who attended more than 95.6% of the time (absent 0- 4 days in a semester of 90 days), 86% graduated four years later
  • Among freshmen who attended between 90-94.4% (5-9 days absent per semester) of the time, 63% graduated
  • Among freshmen who attended between 84-89% (10-14 days absent per semester) of the time, 41% graduated
  • Among freshmen who attended between 79%-83% (15-19 days absent per semester) of the time, only 21% graduated

At the program level, assessing success may be done by comparing data collected at program intake, at later intervals, and/or at exit between participants and non-participants. It is also meaningful to compare results for the current cohort (those who entered the program at the same time in the current  year) with those of previous cohorts or examine data obtained from previous years or quarters on the same cohort.

The most reliable source of school attendance data is typically the school itself. The report card is the best source of attendance data by reporting period, which is a frequency that suffices for youth programs that aim to promote positive development. Programs that target very high risk students, however, may need daily data in order to intervene immediately, as needed. This typically requires collaboration with a school’s attendance office.

Sample measures to track over time may include the number of unexcused absences per quarter or the percent of total school days attended. 

By Urban Institute

 

Sources Cited

Baker, M. L., Sigmon, J. N., & Nugent, M. E. (September 2001). Truancy reduction: Keeping students in school. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved February 7, 2011.

Loeber, R., Farrington, D. P., & Petechuk, D. (May 2003). Child delinquency: Early intervention and prevention. Child Delinquency Bulletin Series. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved February 7, 2011.

Allensworth, E. M. & Easton, J. Q. (2007). What Matters for Staying on Track and Graduating From Chicago Public High Schools: A Close Look at Course Grades, Failures and Attendance in the Freshman Year. Chicago: University of Chicago. Retrieved February 7, 2011.