How Attendance Tracking Helps Fight Chronic Absenteeism

Chronic Absenteeism is not a new problem but continues to increase in magnitude and affect students’ future.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, absenteeism has doubled and become harder to measure. Attendance trackers can help solve the issue for teachers and families. 

What is Chronic Absenteeism, and Why Does It Matter?

The United States Department of Education referred to absenteeism as “a hidden educational crisis” in a report originally published five years ago. The report has since been updated to reflect the increasing problem. But none of the researchers predicted that absenteeism would double during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 15 days of the school year, roughly ten percent of the entire school year or two or more days per month. Whilst this number may not seem that high, it is concerning for educators.

Missing school is directly related to academic outcomes, such as students’ “reading levels, grade retention, graduation rates, and high school dropout rates”. As absenteeism affects children living in poverty more so than their peers, it stops education from being an equalizer. Over the longer term, missing school regularly has been correlated with health problems and adult poverty.

Absenteeism can also be a sign of larger underlying issues. Rates of absenteeism are higher in children with developmental delays, autism, or ADHD. Anxiety or depression are common reasons for children to miss school.

School-related anxiety can be another factor driving kids to persuade parents they should not go to school. Some refuse to attend school outright.

Apart from mental health-related reasons for absenteeism, there are also physical causes. A study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that children with chronic illnesses were more likely to miss school. Their absences were directly related to experiencing symptoms.

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Complicated the Problem

The coronavirus pandemic has turned chronic absenteeism from a problem into a crisis. Throughout 2020, the number of students missing school doubled from around five percent to ten percent on any given day. This was reported by teachers responding to an Education Week survey. National-level data is not yet available.

As in-person classrooms moved to virtual spaces, children from lower-income families or other vulnerable students were impacted especially. Limited access to technology hampered their opportunities to participate in virtual classes. Without a stable internet connection or digital devices at home, students found it harder than usual to attend classes.

Those in part-time education found their priorities changed with having to focus on work and their families rather than education.

Even some of those students with suitable digital devices and internet access struggled with remote learning. On occasion, virtual classrooms proved to be less engaging than in-person learning. Students also struggled with limited access to resources offered by schools and general support for their learning. In short, virtual classes and homeschooling made learning more challenging.

How Taking Attendance Can Help

Taking attendance daily was the norm before the pandemic. However, with classes moved online and schools relying on parents and families for homeschooling, this has become more of a challenge. As schools closed across the country, attendance tracking simply stopped.

Ensuring students’ attendance at school involves teachers, parents, and students themselves. Moving the process to a virtual platform can help make things easier – as long as the platform is widely accessible and user-friendly.

TrueCare’s Attendance & At Risk Program is designed to be that and much more. It makes it easy for parents to notify the school of a child’s absence.

At the same time, teachers and school administrators receive real-time data of the students in their care.

The platform is about more than simply tracking and recording absence. It helps teachers and school counselors to identify at-risk students and intervene early. Absenteeism can start as early as the first week of school. Tracking the problem this early allows educators to support potentially vulnerable students sooner.

This applies to both in-person and virtual classrooms. For the latter, offering access to technology may help. In addition, students may also benefit from one-to-one support where this is possible. Spotting barriers to learning is generally easier in person, with the student present in a classroom environment. However, where this remains impossible, noticing patterns of absence earlier allows more time to find solutions.

The Attendance & At-Risk Program can help educators and families in more ways. Enabling direct messaging between schools and parents is one option. It saves time and money spent on trying to make calls. Advising the school of a child’s absence could not be more convenient for parents.

Counselors and educators not only notice which students may be at risk. They also benefit from streamlined, automated attendance reporting to state authorities. The result is less time spent on administrative tasks, which could be used to help vulnerable children.

Principals and school administrators can access trends daily, weekly, or monthly via a simple dashboard. Their options include seeing top-level information at a glance or reviewing detailed data.

Measuring school attendance can be a useful tool to help understand a student’s overall situation and identify barriers to learning. As chronic absenteeism has the potential to influence a student’s future throughout their adult life, it is important to spot it early and intervene as soon as possible. Technology makes this easy and convenient for all involved.

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