Absences negatively impact achievement, regardless of the reason

Absences negatively impact achievement, regardless of the reason

By Claire Shin, Johns Hopkins University

Researchers from Scotland have added to the body of existing research on the negative effects of student absenteeism by exploring whether the reasons for absences have differing impacts on achievement. The study used linear regression to analyze longitudinal data from a representative sample of 4,419 students. Schools in Scotland are required to note the reason for student absences. Researchers compared this data with results from two high-stakes tests that students take in secondary school. Their study found:

•            Overall absences, as well as absences due to vacations, were associated with a 0.03 standard deviation decrease in achievement (SE= 0.00, p< .01).

•            Truancy- or sickness-related absences were associated with a 0.04 standard deviation decrease in achievement (SE= 0.00, p< .001).

•            Family emergency-related absences were associated with a 0.02 standard deviation decrease in achievement (SE= 0.00, p< .01).

Although this may not sound like a big effect, this actually represents more than a third of the achievement gap between students on Scotland’s free school meal system and students who do not qualify, and a fourth of the gap between those who are in public housing and those who are not. 

The authors encouraged schools to build support plans that target the specific reasons for absences to help students make up academic learning, feel connected at school, and also get any additional outside help they may need to be successful.

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