While many studies examine the effects of head teachers on pupil achievement, a recent study examined the effects of head teachers on pupil absenteeism. Brendan Bartanen of Texas A&M reviewed the statewide data in Tennessee between 2006-07 and 2016-17, correlating 3,800 head teachers in 1,700 schools to pupil attendance and achievement data. He describes how he translates this data into a “value added” determination of head teachers’ effects, meaning using a system to determine which head teachers add value to their school community.
Results showed that replacing a head teacher who had a poor value-added rate (25%) with a head teacher who had a higher value-added rate (75%) reduced absences of pupils who were chronically truant by 4 percentage points, and of pupils overall by .08 percentage points. He also found that the head teachers whose schools showed the greatest increases in attendance were not necessarily the ones whose pupils demonstrated the greatest gains in test scores.
Source: Principal quality and student attendance (March 2020), Educational Researcher, Volume 49 Issue 2
Phyllis Jordan at FutureEd, a US think-tank, recently wrote Attendance playbook: Smart solutions for reducing chronic absenteeism, a report outlining strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism and the evidence behind each suggested strategy. The strategies are presented by Tier I, II, and III intervention levels as follows:
- Tier I
- Effective messaging and engagement (eg, nudging parents and pupils)
- Removing barriers to attendance (eg, school-based health services)
- Improving school climate (eg, relevant – and culturally relevant – curriculum)
- Tier II
- Effective messaging and engagement (eg, early warning)
- Removing barriers to attendance (eg, addressing asthma)
- Tier III
- Including truancy courts, interagency case management and housing
Each strategy described is followed by a list of the
evidence supporting it, ranked by US’s ESSA evidence strength (strong,
moderate, promising, emerging), with a link to each report. Short descriptions
of schools and districts using the strategies are also included.
Attendance playbook: Smart solutions for reducing chronic absenteeism (July
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Attendance Works have released a new report, Using Chronic Absence Data to Improve Conditions for Learning, which describes how data on chronic absence, defined as a pupil missing 10 or more days of school, can be a tool to warn administrators that pupils are not getting the support they need. The first half of the report describes four school characteristics that promote attendance — physical and emotional health and safety; belonging, connectedness and support; academic challenge and engagement; and adult and pupil social and emotional competence — and how they relate to attendance. The second half of the report describes how chronic attendance data can be used to diagnose weaknesses in learning conditions and presents specific steps that schools can take to promote better conditions.
Source: Using chronic absence data to improve conditions for learning (September 2019), Attendance Works and American Institutes for Research (AIR)
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at what impact an intervention designed to help students with concerns about starting middle school has on their academic achievement, behaviour, and well-being.
Geoffrey Borman and colleagues conducted the study with 1,304 sixth graders (Year 7) at 11 middle schools in a US Midwestern school district. Within each of the 11 schools, students were randomly assigned to the intervention or control condition. The intervention group was given reflective writing exercises, two months apart, which were designed to help students reassess any concerns and worries they might have about belonging in school. The control condition exercises asked students to write about neutral middle school experiences that were not related to school belonging.
The researchers collected pre- and post-intervention survey data on students’ reported social and emotional well-being, and official school records of student attendance, disciplinary records, and grades. The results of the study suggested that the intervention reduced behavioural referrals by 34% (effect size = -0.14), decreased absence by 12% (ES = -0.13), and reduced the number of failing grades by 18% (ES = -0.11). Differences across demographic groups were not statistically significant.
Source: Reappraising academic and social adversity improves middle school students’ academic achievement, behavior, and well-being (August 2019) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
A new study by Steven Sheldon and Sol Bee Jung from Johns Hopkins School of Education examines Parent Teacher Home Visits (PTHV), a strategy for engaging educators and families as a team to support pupil achievement. The PTHV model has three main components: (1) an initial visit in the summer or autumn in which educators focus on getting to know the pupil and the family, (2) ongoing two-way conversation during the school year, and (3) a second visit in the winter or spring with a focus on how to support the child academically.
Four large urban districts from
across the US participated in the study. From each district, the researchers
requested pupil-level data about demographic characteristics (eg, gender, race)
and pupil outcomes (eg, attendance and standardised test performance).
Additionally, districts were asked to provide data about the implementation of
PTHV in their schools.
Key findings of the study were as
- On average, schools that systematically implemented PTHV experienced decreased rates of pupil chronic absenteeism and increased rates of pupil English language and maths proficiency, as measured on state assessments.
- Pupils whose families participated in a home visit were less likely to be chronically absent than pupils whose families did not participate.
- For pupils, attending a school that was implementing home visits with at least 10% of pupils’ families was associated with a decreased likelihood of being chronically absent.
- For pupils, attending a school that was implementing home visits with at least 10% of pupils’ families was associated with an increased likelihood of scoring at or above proficiency on standardised English language assessments.
Source: Student outcomes and parent Year
3 evaluation teacher home visits (November 1018), Johns Hopkins University
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), US schools are obliged to evaluate their performance using four academic achievement measures and one non-academic measure. Most states have adopted “chronic absenteeism” as their fifth indicator.
FutureEd, a “think tank” organisation at Georgetown University, has released “Who’s In: Chronic Absenteeism Under the Every Student Succeeds Act”, a report that analyses the 51 state ESSA plans regarding absenteeism and relates them to federal data on chronic absenteeism.
State ESSA plans show that 36 US states and Washington, DC have included chronic absences in their performance indicators. Yet there is no set standard to define chronic absenteeism. Of the 36 states using attendance as a performance indicator, 27 states define chronic absenteeism as missing ten percent of school days; five states inversely require 90% or more attendance, two states require more, and three states define it as missing a set number of days. Most states have not established standards for how many chronically absent pupils a school should have.
The review of federal absence rates shows that chronic absence is more prevalent in high school than in the earlier grades, and more prevalent among pupils from lower socio-economic status. Researchers found that the greatest variance in attendance is not between states or districts, but between schools within the same district. In fact, two-thirds of the variance was among schools in the same district, showing that measuring attendance is a meaningful measure of a school’s performance.
Suggestions to increase attendance include:
- Establishing a nationwide standard definition for “chronic absence”, expressed as a percentage of the school year.
- Including all absences, not just unexcused ones, in determining if a pupil has a chronic problem.
- Establishing, by state, what percentage of chronic absences is too high for their schools and then set a realistic, achievable goal to measure improvement.
- Giving teachers professional development credit to attend workshops on strategies to improve attendance.
Source: Who’s In: Chronic Absenteeism Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (September 2017), FutureEd, Georgetown University