Absenteeism: The Costs for Students and Schools.

Absenteeism: The Costs for Students and Schools.

Emily (name changed to protect her identity) Is someone who is very monotone at times, but a very happy, joyful, and pleasing person to be around.She’s someone who never lets her guard down for anything, not even in the slightest minute. She is always someone that’s worth talking to and could keep you entertained for hours. She puts in a lot of effort in everything she does, whether it’s school, work, or friendships. She always makes an effort in something that she’s passionate about completing. She’s all about trying out new things in life, which I find brave of her. Emily has been my friend for five years- and I have seen her in school some years a lot, some years- not so much.

Emily missed 27 days of school this year. She is not even in the top 20 most missed days at North High School. Her GPA is average- but she knows she could have done better. Like many students, this struggle has really impacted her education- and her ability to participate in her education fully. 

Chronic Absenteeism is a major problem facing schools across America. Worcester is no different- and will continue to be a major factor in student success over the next couple of years.  Since the pandemic, attendance in the Worcester Public Schools has declined. However, different schools around Worcester have a significant difference in attendance. The district’s attendance rate as a whole is very good, at  94.5 percent, roughly equal to the state’s average. We’ve talked to staff members here at North, as well as students, to learn about their thoughts and on absenteeism. They had many thoughts on the rate of chronic absenteeism, and it was interesting to see this issue here at North from many perspectives- and we learned about some solutions the staff at North are working on.  Chronic absenteeism has been a problem for many of my peers- I see that some students may be behind on certain things in class and are impacting their GPA, and the classes they can take at North.

 

Emily talked to me about her experience as someone who misses school often, and how it can sometimes be a struggle, and how it has affected her learning and created a dent in her participation. She talked about her past with elementary school to now. I asked her if she thinks her attendance has affected her education or the way she learns throughout the school year. “Yeah I think me, not being here has caused me to miss lessons and then when I come back from being absent, it’s hard for me to get back on track and complete the work that I have to do, on top of the work from when I was absent. I think just having the work build up also was stressful and caused me to miss days.” She’s someone who gets their work done even when she doesn’t have enough time or energy to do so. Her attendance did slack a little this year but overall she does not have to do by-back and she currently has an average GPA. Although some days she’s absent she always contacts and talks with her teachers about her absence to make sure she didn’t miss anything major.

  Another thing is students miss days and don’t want catch up with their work, even though she does miss days she still manages and tries her best to keep up with the missing work, Ms. Norgren, a teacher here at North had some thoughts to say about this as well. “I think it affects it in numerous ways for one thing. I think it’s very challenging to learn when you’re not in the classroom. I think sometimes things like Google classroom can kind of create a perception that all I need to do is go on and do the assignments but assignments are just kind of the last part of the learning process.”

Emily started working towards the beginning of her sophomore year and still tries her best with work, school and her personal life. Her job does leave her fully drained by the end of her shift but she tries to get up in the morning to go to school and get her work done. “Sometimes my mom wouldn’t wanna get up in the morning to bring me and I just didn’t have the energy to walk or I didn’t wanna get up in the morning because I was too tired because I had worked the night before.”  As her friend and someone who knew her for so long she’s put in a lot of effort in school, her life, and her job.

 

Absenteeism is slowly becoming a national issue and different districts and states are quickly coming up with different plans to address this issue. In the state of Massachusetts, the governing body for the schools (DESE) issued some of the following guidance to help remediate absenteeism.

  • Awarding students with prices for having  good and improved attendance 
  • Emphasizing the importance of attendance and it’s disadvantages and encouraging  students with long term diseases to complete their work when they go back to school
  • Matching chronically absent students with a mentor in the school staff or a community partner to address barriers they might face in school

 

 

In the state of California the state came up with some plans to address absenteeism in their state

  •  By holding a draw for special prizes for individual students or classes that show improved attendance.
  •  Making home visits concerning student absences if parents, guardians, and caregivers cannot be reached by email, text, or telephone.
  • Referring students with frequent absences to a school nurse, school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker.
  • Calling or sending emails to parents, guardians, and caregivers in the evening to verify absences.
  • Using language aid to notify parents,guardians and caregivers of absenteeism

 Ariana Norgren an English teacher for Freshman and Seniors here at North High School talked to me about her ideas, thoughts, on the topic of absenteeism. The thought process behind this can change the way people view absenteeism.  This is her fifth year here at North. She quoted.. “I’ve noticed that there’s been a significant and noticeable decline in attendance across the board. I teach freshmen and teach seniors and I’ve seen it decline in both grades. So they’re definitely more absences than they’re used to be” 

She also states that the absences do affect the student’s education.. “I think it affects it in numerous ways for one thing. I think it’s very challenging to learn when you’re not in the classroom. I think sometimes things like Google classroom can kind of create a perception that all I need to do is go on and do the assignments but assignments are just kind of the last part of the learning process.”

The school district of Worcester came up with some plans to address absenteeism in their district 

  • By making a tardy station that talks and explain the importance of coming to school
  • Nurses and administrative assistants make phone calls to the caregivers of medically

fragile students who are not attending school to provide support to families.

  • In-School Parent Conferences – Opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with parents/guardians to discuss/plan around student attendance issues.
  • Police Wellness check in the event the student cannot be located through less formal methods File Missing persons Report
  • Worcester Juvenile Court: Adult Failure to Cause (ADF) school attendance is a criminal complaint filed against a parent/guardian in a 6 month period, student must have 7 absences or 14 half days out. Must be filed with a 51A for same offense

In the state of Massachusetts different Schools in every district collected Data on the  attendance rate at their school based on race,disabilities,High needs,low income and English language learner as some of these factors had a significantly lower rate of attendance and the results were shocking.

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