How we mis-measure attendance problems

I swear I made this exact point on Monday.  I have witnesses.

Up to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

They argue that policy makers tend to look at absenteeism in the wrong way, requiring districts and states to measure average daily attendance rates, but — with the exception of a few states — not focusing on the relatively small number of students who account for most absences. They found that some schools report an average of more than 90 percent daily attendance, masking the fact that 40 percent of their students are chronically missing.

“We don’t see the problem clearly because, in most places, we don’t measure it, and average daily attendance really skews the way we view this,” said one of the authors, Robert Balfanz, a research professor at the university’s School of Education.

Read the whole piece here.  I’ve already sketched out a plan to track attendance this way at my new school.  Granted I teach seniors, but I very much see this problem with my students.  My daily attendance is somewhere between 80-90%, but nearly half my students have missed at least 10 days this semester.

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