January 03, 2022
Why Student Absences Aren’t The Real Problem In America’s ‘Attendance Crisis’
- Building Community
Source: The Conversation | Repost Fight for Life Foundation 1/3/2022 –
Nationally, one in six children miss 15 or more days of school in a year and are considered chronically absent. Education officials have lamented that all this missed instruction has for years constituted an attendance crisis in U.S. elementary, middle and high schools.
The fear among policymakers is that these chronically absent students suffer academically because of all the classroom instruction they miss out on. In 2015, the U.S. secretary of education and other federal officials responded to this perceived crisis, urging communities to “support every student, every day to attend and be successful in school[.]” Their open letter stated that missing 10% of school days in a year for any reason – excused or unexcused – “is a primary cause of low academic achievement.”
Worrying about whether children attend school makes sense. After all, if students don’t show up, teachers can’t teach them.
But what if America’s attendance crisis is about much more than students missing class? What if, instead, it is a reflection of family and community crises these students face – such as being evicted from the family apartment, fearing for their safety in their neighborhood or suffering an illness? These circumstances can both limit children’s academic achievement and keep them from getting to school.
Excused vs. unexcused absences
As social scientists who study inequality in schools, and an education researcher and school district leader, we investigated how excused and unexcused absences relate to children’s academic achievement.