Data gathered by non-profit Attendance Works reveals that 29.7% of students, nearly 14.7 million, were chronically absent in the 2021-22 school .
Preliminary data for the 2022-23 school year shows minimal improvement, with an overall chronic absenteeism rate of 27.8% in the 11 reporting states. This number is concerning, given that research has revealed weaker academic performance and executive functioning skills in classrooms with higher absenteeism rates. Chronic absenteeism leads to lower graduation rates, underscoring the urgency for transformational work to help address its root cause: disengagement. Over our team’s 40 years of experience in school transformation, our leaders have found three main components to help improve disengagement and combat absenteeism. Those components are: fostering positive relationships, creating supportive school cultures, and improving stakeholder engagement.
Fostering Positive Relationships
When students feel connected to their teachers and peers, they are more likely to engage in learning. By fostering a sense of belonging, students feel valued and motivated to attend school more regularly.
Supportive School Cultures
A solid school culture provides a safety net for students, addressing academic, social, and emotional needs. Students with a robust support system are better equipped to navigate challenges and overcome obstacles, reducing the likelihood they will miss school. Supportive environments can also help identify underlying issues that may contribute to a student’s decision to skip school, allowing for early intervention and targeted assistance.
Positive relationships and a supportive culture extend beyond the classroom to involve parents, community members, and school staff. Collaborative efforts ensure a holistic approach to addressing absenteeism, involving all stakeholders in finding solutions and providing necessary resources.
MGT has successfully assisted schools across the nation in addressing disengagement by providing strategic initiatives to boost attendance, elevate graduation rates, and reduce instances of disciplinary referrals.
In one example, our team was selected by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to assist its schools in need of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) under the State’s federally approved plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). During the first quarter of engagement, in advance of building a collaborative and data-centric planning process, our team completed an analysis of each school’s strengths and areas of opportunity in school culture and effectiveness of current instructional practices. We then established annual goals for student achievement and school culture/climate, with each campus receiving support based on the unique needs of their school. They were also provided with systems and training to promote the sustainability for these initiatives and goals.
Within the first two years of our partnership, 69% (11/16) of schools with the CSI status achieved school improvement gains that allowed them to exit turnaround status. 60% also increased their 5-year graduation rates and 83% of schools experienced a reduction in school dropouts. Additionally, 100% saw a reduction in both In-School & Out-of-School Suspensions. During the second year we were engaged with Dillard Middle School, they ranked as one of the top 11 schools that exceeded growth expectations. This was the first time in their history that they achieved this level of growth. In addition, Bessemer Elementary was ranked as 9th/126 schools that demonstrated growth in 2020/2021, with an overall growth index of 4.33% within the first two years of working with us. The project has been successful on many accounts, but the work is not done.
In confronting chronic absenteeism, we know it demands more than acknowledgment – it requires collective action.
The call for transformation in our education system echoes loudly, urging schools to embrace innovative solutions like those our team provides. If you’re interested in learning more about the impact and process of developing meaningful relationships with students and building a supportive culture, register for our upcoming FREE webinar on the subject.