Kindergarten attendance may predict how well a child does in the future. While any missed school day is a lost chance for students to learn, chronic absenteeism “reduces even the best teacher’s ability to provide learning opportunities,” the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) explains. Furthermore, students who attend school regularly have been shown to perform at higher levels than those without regular attendance.
Education Week (EdW) author, Denisa Superville, wrote about a new study examining absenteeism in Delaware from kindergarten through 3rd grade and the effect on students’ academic performance. Researchers analyzed thousands of student records and their progress over multiple years. The study defined chronic absenteeism as missing 10% of the academic year or two days each month. As a result, the evaluation revealed the need to stress the importance of consistent attendance in early education.
The research shows that chronically absent students in kindergarten are at risk of falling behind in reading and math skills by the 3rd grade. “Vulnerable student populations, such as those with disabilities, come from communities with a history of negative experiences with educational institutions or are struggling with poverty, experience higher levels of chronic absence than their peers,” Attendance Works explains.
Kindergarten Absenteeism Schoolwide Effect
Unfortunately, the negative results were not limited to those with chronic absences. Absenteeism affects the entire school, says Lauren P. Bailes, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware School of Education.
“The schoolwide effect in schools with larger-than-average absenteeism was sometimes up to 20 times the effect on an individual student’s performance.”
Bailes co-authored a paper on these research findings with Danielle Riser and Henry May, the director of the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy. Their paper explains that every additional day in a school’s average chronic absenteeism rate was related to a decrease in the school’s math and English/language arts scores. Therefore, the kindergarten absentee rate no longer holds merely an individual consequence. These decreases demonstrate “how hard it is to teach and to maintain a consistent academic program where there is a lot of consistent, current, chronic absenteeism,” Baile further explains.
Researchers contend the schoolwide impact deserves more attention. For example, the entire classroom is disrupted when students return from an absence. Bailes recalled her experience, “Both the students who’d been absent and those who were not lost instructional time and progress because I had to reteach content.”
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Education Week: Why Kindergarten Attendance Matters for the Whole School; by Denisa R. Superville
Attendance Works: Why Address Attendance During Kindergarten Transition?
Attendance Works: Why Being in School Matters: Chronic Absenteeism in Oregon Public Schools; by Melanie Hart Buehler, John Tapogna, and Hedy N. Chang (pdf)
National Center for Education Statistics: Every School Day Counts: The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data – Task Force Members