State Proposal Adresses Issue of Absenteeism in Schools

Children with teacher at school.
School absences have been shown to have a strong correlation with test grades and drop-out rates. The more absences students have, the more likely they are to have lower grades on tests and to drop out of school. Keeping track of student absences can help address these issues on a large scale — something New York officials have yet to do, until now.

A recent proposal to the Board of Regents would require school districts throughout the state to get more involved in students’ attendance habits by tracking data and setting attendance goals. The proposal calls on the state’s department of education to keep track of schools that perform poorly according to certain criteria.

According to Chalkbeat, schools with a high number of students missing 18 or more days of school would be required to make attendance goals for students.

State officials have based the proposal on a model that is already being used in New York City schools, which is the only district in the state to track student attendance records on a district-wide scale. The New York City system requires school officials to flag students who are frequently absent and at risk for dropping out. Schools are also required to create an attendance plan each year to set annual goals.

A campaign launched by the city a few years ago also helped to address the issue of absenteeism and successfully lowered the amount of missed days by students. Targeted subway ads, mentorship programs and data on attendance records were all part of the effort.

NYC has seen some issues along the way — the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs found that only 60 out of the 100 schools in an initiative to lower absenteeism last year were successful, according to Chalkbeat. The city also does not rate schools based on student absences anymore.

Some private schools have tackled issues such as absenteeism through their education philosophies. Montessori schools, for example, give students greater freedom of choice with their learning activities and encourage students to go at their own pace. Studies have shown that students learning through the Montessori style of teaching have greater levels of undivided interest and better motivation. Students who are more engaged in their learning experience are less likely to skip school.

While New York does keep an eye on attendance rates at schools statewide, it doesn’t track students who are chronically absent. The new proposal would require schools to report on how many students are consistently absent from school, regardless of whether or not they are excused or unexcused absences.

Members of the Board of Regents are set to vote on the attendance-tracking proposal this spring.