It's no big deal to miss a day of kindergarten. Right?

Simone Robers, Managing Director

The research is startling. According to the California Bureau of Children’s Justice, children who are chronically absent from school struggle with reading issues and are four times more likely to drop out. Moreover, chronically absent students are eight times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetimes (Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice, 2015). In fact, chronic absenteeism is considered the single strongest predictor for dropping out of school (DeSocio et al., 2007; Stearns & Glennie, 2006). Dropping out of school in turn is linked to behavioral problems, as well as suicidal ideation, attempted and completed suicide, and incarceration (Nansel et al., 2001; Scrabstein & Leventhal, 2010).

Chronic absenteeism is already of concern in kindergarten, and research on the topic is emerging as educators and policymakers seek guidance on how to reduce chronic absenteeism rates and keep our students engaged in school. CNA Education is currently conducting a research project to investigate available data on chronic absenteeism rates, using, among other sources, data from the National Crime Victimization Survey and its School Crime Supplement. The research project will also examine drivers and consequences of high absenteeism rates.

What do we know already? Chronic absenteeism incorporates all types of absences from school—namely, excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. While chronic absenteeism does not have a standard definition across the nation, research uses a threshold of missing 10 percent or more of the school year—the equivalent in most school districts of missing between 15 and 18 days of schooling. In 2013/14, 6 million (one out of every seven) U.S. students, or 14 percent of our student population, missed 15 or more days of instructional time (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Although rates do not differ by gender, certain student populations have higher absenteeism rates than others. For example, American Indian and Pacific Islander students, with the highest absenteeism rates, are over 65 percent more likely than their White peers to miss 15 days of instructional time. Black students are 36 percent more likely, and Hispanic students are 11 percent more likely.

Drivers for high absenteeism rates are adversities students at all ages struggle with in their lives, including social-emotional and physical health challenges; low socioeconomic status and poverty; limited transportation in rural areas; unstable or changing family dynamics; and violence or lack of safety, among others. These adversities present a challenge for our school systems; the lack of a safe and secure learning environment is particularly troubling. An unsafe school environment and victimization at school are linked to potentially long-lasting negative impacts on students’ academic achievement and their psychological and social development and well-being (DeVoe & Bauer, 2010; Neiman, Robers, & Robers, 2012; Swearer Napolitano, Espelage, Vaillancourt, & Hymel, 2010).

What do we need to learn more about to address the problem efficiently? The first hurdle is a lack of comprehensive data. Currently, states and school districts are not required to report absenteeism data. The voluntarily provided data available at the national level support the notion that when absent from school chronically, our nations’ students miss vital instruction time to prepare them for successful school completion.

We hope our research will lead to a change in culture regarding the importance of being in school. So is missing a day of class in kindergarten a big deal? The research will answer that question.


References:

DeSocio, J., VanCura, M., Nelson, L. A., Hewitt, G., Kitzman, H., & Cole, R. (2007). Engaging truant adolescents: Results from a multifaceted intervention pilot [Electronic version]. Preventing School Failure, 51(3), 3–11.

DeVoe, J. F., & Bauer, L. (2010). Student victimization in U.S. schools: Results from the 2007 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCES 2010-319). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, J. W., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2010). Bullying behaviors among U.S. youth. JAMA, 285(16), 2094–2010.

Neiman, S., Robers, B., & Robers, S. (2012). Bullying: A state of affairs. Journal of Law and Education, 41(4).

Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice. (2015). In school and on track: Attorney General’s 2015 report on California’s elementary school truancy and absenteeism crisis. Retrieved from https://oag.ca.gov/truancy/2015

Scrabstein, J., & Leventhal, B. (2010). Prevention of bullying-related morbidity and mortality: a call for public health policies. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 88(6), 403.

Stearns, E., & Glennie, E. J. (2006). When and why dropouts leave high school. Youth & Society, 38(1), 29–57.

Swearer Napolitano, S. M., Espelage, D. L., Vaillancourt, T., & Hymel, S. (2010). What can be done about school bullying? Linking research to educational practice. Educational Researcher, 39(1), 38–47.

U.S. Department of Education. (2016, June 7). Chronic absenteeism in the nation's schools. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/datastory/chronicabsenteeism.html#one

Simone Robers has nearly a decade of experience in education research, analysis, and project management, and as CNA Education’s associate director, she helps develop and execute the domestic business strategy and manages operations for the research team.

Simone has managed several federally funded projects, including the task coordination for the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Presidential Initiative, where she worked directly with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and members of the MBK task force on a federal data collection effort focused on opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. An expert on school crime and safety issues, Simone authored the annual publication Indicators of School Crime and Safety, a joint publication of NCES and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2009 and 2015. She also coauthored the congressionally mandated Condition of Education, authored numerous papers on sociological topics, and has presented her work at various conferences and on Capitol Hill.

Simone holds an M.A. in sociology and psychology and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Maryland–Baltimore County, as well as a master’s certification in project management from the George Washington University.

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