Absenteeism & Tardiness in Schools: Statistics & Effects

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  • 0:05 What Is Absenteeism…
  • 0:37 Academic Effects
  • 2:10 Socioemotional…
  • 3:57 Physical and Health Effects
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll be looking at the effect of absenteeism and tardiness in schools. We'll delve into the academic, socioemotional, and physical problems that can arise when students don't attend school.

What Is Absenteeism and Tardiness?

At 8:00 am, first period starts. As you write your startup on the board, you look around the room. You only have four students present. As the period goes on, students start to filter in, but some come later in the day, and some don't come at all. You know this is detrimental to your students, and today we're going to dive into some of the details about how absenteeism and tardiness negatively affect their development. We'll look at statistics and data about the effects of these problems on their academics, socioemotional growth, and physical health.

Academic Effects

As you probably know, absenteeism has a profoundly negative affect on student academic achievement. Students who are chronically absent, missing more than 18 days of school, are more likely to fail classes, have lower GPAs, and a higher risk for dropping out. In one study conducted by the Baltimore Education Research Association, 6th graders missing 20 days or more from school were more likely to drop out than their peers. Students with no other warning indicators, such as failing classes, chronic absences, or suspension, had a graduation rate twice that of their chronically absent peers.

The National Center for Children in Poverty conducted a nationwide study of the effects of chronic absenteeism in first grade in 2008. Although many years away from high school, chronic absenteeism in first grade predicted a lower grade average in 5th grade, leading to students entering middle and high school with fewer skills and less education, a predictor for continued attendance problems, poor grades, and higher risk for dropout.

Although coming to school late is better than not coming at all, tardiness is still a severe problem for students. Students may miss entire classes, often getting an extremely low grade compared to other classes. First grade students with chronic tardiness were shown to have lower math and reading scores compared to their peers in a 2014 study published in the Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement. Not only did the tardiness affect them, but it also affected their peers. Teachers have to take time away from instruction to address late students, preventing the class from continuing and often shortening education time.

Socioemotional Development Effects

Students living in poverty, particularly black and Latino students, are at a greater risk for tardiness and chronic absenteeism. These students also tend to have trauma developed from home life, events in their neighborhood, or poverty itself. Schools provide trauma-based counseling services, which can help students recover. Schools also serve as a safe location for students to build connections with adults.

Adults at school can monitor situations at home and notify the appropriate agencies if students are living in an unsafe environment. Students that miss school miss out on all these benefits. Tardy students may miss counseling appointments and form less intimate relationships with teachers, which decreases the socioemotional benefits of coming to school.

Absenteeism is also correlated with increased risk for criminal activity. In 2010, the New York City juvenile justice program found that 79% of the young people incarcerated had chronic absenteeism from school right before their arrest, and half had chronic absences of over 38 days of school.

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