Data Can Help Schools Confront ‘Chronic Absence’
By Dian Schaffhauser 09/22/16
The data shared in June by the Office for Civil Rights, which compiled it from a 2013-2014 survey completed by nearly every school district and school in the United States. new is a report from Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center that encourages schools and districts to use their own data to pinpoint ways to take on the challenge of chronic absenteeism.
The first is research that shows that missing that much school is correlated with “lower academic performance and dropping out.” Second, it also helps in identifying students earlier in the semester in order to get a jump on possible interventions.
The report offers a six-step process for using data tied to chronic absence in order to reduce the problem.
The first step is investing in “consistent and accurate data.” That’s where the definition comes in — to make sure people have a “clear understanding” and so that it can be used “across states and districts” with school years that vary in length. The same step also requires “clarifying what counts as a day of attendance or absence.”
The second step is to use the data to understand what the need is and who needs support in getting to school. This phase could involve defining multiple tiers of chronic absenteeism (at-risk, moderate or severe), and then analyzing the data to see if there are differences by student sub-population — grade, ethnicity, special education, gender, free and reduced price lunch, neighborhood or other criteria that require special kinds of intervention.
Step three asks schools and districts to use the data to identify places getting good results. By comparing chronic absence rates across the district or against schools with similar demographics, the “positive outliers” may surface, showing people that the problem isn’t unstoppable but something that can be addressed for the better.
Steps five and six call on schools and districts to help people understand why the absences are happening, develop ways to address the problem.
The report links to free data tools on the Attendance Works website, including a calculator for tallying chronic absences and guidance on how to protect student privacy when sharing data.
The full report is freely available on the Attendance Works website.
more on big data in education in this IMS blog