Students who frequently miss class do much worse than their peers academically. No surprise there. What’s astonishing is how early in the school year those patterns show up and, by extension, how quickly they could be addressed.
New research from Baltimore — ground zero for documenting the link between spotty attendance and future dropout rates — shows that, on average, kids who miss just two days of school in September go on to miss at least a full month each year, with predictably dismal outcomes: Studies show that six graders who miss 20 days of class have only a 20 percent chance of graduating high school on time.
That bombshell was the basis for Diplomas Now, a national intervention effort at work in two Seattle middle schools, which was profiled in Education Lab last year.
The most recent research from Baltimore adds fuel to efforts targeting absenteeism as a serious problem. Baltimore students who missed four days of school last September were five times more likely to be chronically absent the rest of the year. “The consistency of the patterns suggests that attendance habits established in September persist,” the researchers found.
In their report, “Why September Matters,” number-crunchers at the Baltimore Education Research Consortium studied the entire 85,000-student Baltimore school district during 2012-13, and found that 8 percent of kids missed more than four days last September. Twenty percent were in high school, 4.5 percent in middle. But more than 1,250 were younger children in grades k-5.