No Excuse for the Unexcused

A few months ago, I wrote about how one of the issues that we’re focused on at NCTL is helping schools to improve student attendance. Of course schools need more learning time, but if there are students who are missing class often, what is the point of a longer school day and year for them? It is not really possible to learn what your class is learning, when you’re not in the classroom. 

Certainly, there is lots of research that shows a really strong correlation between student performance and attendance. But a piece of research takes the argument a step farther. Researcher Michael A. Gottfried looked into whether chronic absenteeism is not just a problem for the student who misses class, but even for the students who are present at school. He examined the student records of five elementary school cohorts (over 30,000 student observations) in Philadelphia to determine whether absenteeism negatively affect students who do not miss class. Gottfried found that, indeed, there was a negative correlation between student performance and their being in classrooms that suffered from higher rates of students with unexcused absences. 
The lesson for schools is clear. Schools owe it not only to the students who miss too much class to solve the problem of absenteeism, but also to the children who do bother to show up. There is no other way to put it: school matters. Schools must create a culture where that message is lived everyday.