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Chronic Absence in the Early Grades


National research found that this level of school absence was associated with ... Crime and Delinquency 50:2 p. 214-234. Robins, L. & and Ratcliff, K. (1980) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chronic Absence in the Early Grades

Chronic Absence in the Early Grades
  • An Applied Research Project Funded by the Annie
    E. Casey Foundation
  • (April 2008)

What is Chronic Early Absence?
  • Chronic early absence occurs when K-3rd graders
    miss 10 or more days (nearly a month) in a
    school year including excused and unexcused
    absences. National research found that this
    level of school absence was associated with lower
    academic performance.

Why Does It Matter
  • Chronic absence in elementary school is
    associated with negative outcomes including low
    academic achievement,i school truancy and drop
    out,ii iii delinquencyiv and substance
  • The educational experience of regularly attending
    children can be adversely affected when teachers
    must divert their attention to meet the learning
    and social needs of chronically absent children
    when they return to school.
  • Chronic early absence could be a critical tool
    for identifying troubled children, families or
    educational institutions early on before problems
    are more difficult to ameliorate.
  • i Lamden, D. (2001). Evidence of student
    attendance as an independent variable in
    education production function. Journal of
    Educational Research. 893 p. 155-162.
  • ii McCluskey, C., Bynum, R., Patchin, J.
    (2004). Reducing chronic absenteeism An
    assessment of an early truancy initiative. Crime
    and Delinquency 502 p. 214-234. Robins, L.
    and Ratcliff, K. (1980). The long-term outcome
    of truancy. In Hersov, L. Berg, I. (Eds.) Out
    of school Modern perspectives in truancy and
    school refusal. p. 65-83.
  • iii Alexander, K, Entwisle, D. Horsey, C.
    (1997) From first grade forward Early
    foundations of high school dropout. Sociology of
    Education. 702 p. 87-107.
  • iv Loeber, R. Farrington, D. (2000). Young
    children who commit crime Epidemiology,
    developmental origins, risk factors, early
    intervention, and policy implications.
    Development and Psychopathology 12 p. 737-762.
  • v Hawkins, J. Catalano, R. (1992) Communities
    that care Action for drug abuse prevention. San
    Francisco Jossey-Bass.

Why is chronic early absence often overlooked?
  • It lies hidden within typically high elementary
    school attendance rates.
  • Typically schools only track data on attendance
    and truancy (unexcused absence).
  • School data systems may underestimate prevalence
    of chronic absence they do not electronically
    track absences for individual children.
  • Communities may be less concerned that young
    children (as opposed middle or high school
    students) will cause trouble if they miss school.

Applied Research Project Goals
  • Understand the impact, scale and scope of chronic
    early absence
  • Identify factors contributing to chronic early
  • Find promising programs and practices
  • Determine implications of chronic early absence
    for practice, policy and research

Key Research Activities
  • Analysis of national Early Childhood Longitudinal
    Study data to assess impact, prevalence and risk
    factors for chronic early absence by the National
    Center for Children in Poverty
  • Examination of early absenteeism patterns in 9,
    mostly urban, localities by grade and for
    particular populations (ELL, gender, low-income
    and special education)
  • Review of relevant literature
  • Interviews with practitioners and researchers on
    promising programs and practices

Preliminary Findings
  • Supported by National Local Research

  • 1. Chronic absence in Kindergarten is associated
    with lower academic performance in 1st grade
    among all children, and most significantly for
    Latino youngsters.

  • 2. The longer term relationship to academic
    performance depends upon income. Chronic absence
    in kindergarten is associated with low 5th grade
    achievement for poor children but not their
    better-off peers.

  • 3. An estimated one in ten kindergarten and first
    grade students are chronically absent nationally.
    Prevalence of chronic early absence varied
    markedly across the nine localities we studied,
    ranging from just over 5 to more than 25 of the
    students K-3. Within districts, prevalence of
    chronic early absence also differed widely across
    schools. (In one locality, it ranged from 1 to

  • 4. Chronic early absence decreases between
    kindergarten and third grade nationally and in
    all localities.

  • 5. Nationally, incidence of chronic early absence
    was generally higher among students of color,
    especially Native Americans. Among localities
    studied, different ethnic groups (in some cases,
    whites) had the highest rates.

  • 6. Chronic early absence is associated with
    living in poverty.
  • 7. Multiple maternal and family risks ( e.g.
    living in poverty, teen motherhood, single
    parenting, low maternal education, unemployment,
    poor maternal health, and multiple siblings) are
    associated with high levels of chronic early

  • 8. Among children in poor health, absences in
    the early grades increase significantly among
    families between 200-300 of poverty.

  • 9. Chronic early absence is lower among children
    who spent the year prior to kindergarten in a
    center or with a non-relative caregiver.
  • 10. Participation in full day (vs. half-day)
    kindergarten seems to lessen the negative impact
    of chronic absence in kindergarten among poor
  • 11. Local data suggests further research should
    be conducted to examine whether chronic early
    absence is less prevalent among English Language
    Learners and more common among children with
    different types of disabilities.

Possible Factors Contributing to Chronic Early
An Ecological Child Development Perspective
  • Drawing from insights gained from our
    quantitative research, a literature review and
    interviews with practitioners researchers, we
    propose adopting an ecological framework.
    Whether children attend school regularly reflects
    how well their environmentsincluding family,
    schools, community, culture, and
    societyadequately address their needs. When
    chronic early absence occurs, it is important to
    consider the extent to which schools, families
    and communities all might play a contributing

  • Is chronic early absence an indication that
  • do not monitor absences, communicate the
    importance of attendance or reach out to families
    when children miss extended periods of time?
  • are not effectively engaging parents in their
    childrens education, including drawing upon
    family assets and cultural resources?
  • are not providing a high quality, engaging and
    safe educational experience?

  • Is chronic early absence an indication that
  • are poor and lack the resources (transportation,
    food, clothing, etc) to ensure their children
    regularly attend school?
  • have difficulty addressing and managing chronic
    illness among children?
  • have not developed effective parenting skills for
    promoting school success including supporting
    regular school attendance in the early grades?
  • have a history of negative experiences with
    education and may not feel welcome in school?
  • face multiple risks and, in some cases, serious
    problems such as domestic abuse, mental illness,
    drug addiction or incarceration?
  • are highly mobile?

  • Is chronic early absence an indication that
  • do not provide adequate support to help young
    children and families make a positive transition
    into elementary school?
  • are severely distressed and lack formal or
    informal supports to promote the positive
    development of children including regular school
  • experience high levels of violence that adversely
    affect family functioning and getting children to
    school safely?

  • Drawn from insights gained from our quantitative
    research, a literature review and interviews with
    practitioners researchers, these hypothesis
    are not mutually exclusive. Contributing factors
    can vary across families, schools, and
    communities. A high prevalence in a school or
    district may reflect the presence of more
    systemic issues.

Potential Implications for Action
A. Data Collection Tracking
  • All school districts should
  • Include absences among the data elements tracked
    with a universal student identifier, including
    among elementary school children.
  • Regularly calculate and report on the number of
    children chronically absent including excused and
    unexcused absences by grade and school.
  • Adopt a common definition of chronic absence
    (missing 10 or more of the school year school
    year regardless of whether absences are excused
    or unexcused).
  • Identify any schools or demographic group
    experiencing high levels of chronic early
    absence. For these schools and groups, gather
    quantitative and qualitative data to gain a
    deeper understanding of the contributing factors
    so that appropriate responses can be developed.

B. Programmatic Response
  • Schools can partner with families and community
    agencies to
  • Contact families promptly when children are
    absent and, as needed, provide long-term case
    management along with social medical and economic
  • Offer incentives for attendance to all children
  • Create opportunities for parents and children to
    help each other attend school regularly.
  • Educate parents about the importance of school
    attendance starting in kindergarten, or even
    earlier through early childhood programs

B. Programmatic Response (Cont.)
  • Schools can partner with families and community
    agencies to
  • Use legal threats and action, only as a last
    resort, to reach the hardest to serve families
  • Improve schools so they effectively engage
    families and offer a high quality education.
  • Embed attention to chronic early absence in
    relevant community supports ranging from after
    school programs to school readiness or drop-out
    prevention initiatives to school based health

C. Research
  • Additional helpful research could include
  • Longitudinal data analysis to examine long-term
    academic and social outcomes for children
    chronically absent in the early grades.
  • An assessment of the prevalence and impact of
    chronic early absence on children living outside
    of urban areas, especially in rural communities.
  • Analysis of the relationship between teacher
    absenteeism and chronic early absence among
  • An examination of children with troubling
    attendance patterns to find out if they can be
    identified in preschool or earlier
  • A multi-site study to determine how chronic early
    absences is affected by a variety of family,
    school and community variables.

  • Do these findings resonate with you?
  • What do you think are the implications of chronic
    early absence for community schools?