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GaDOE Research Shows Student Attendance Significantly Impacts Student Achievement
MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651-7358, mcardoza@gadoe.org
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September 7, 2011 – Research conducted by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) concluded that a student's attendance significantly impacts graduation rates and state test results.

Data indicates that missing more than five days of school each year, regardless of the cause, begins to impact student academic performance and starts shaping attitudes about school. Chronically truant students are not the only students negatively impacted by absences. For students who are in the 6th grade through the 9th grade, attendance is a better predictor of dropping out of school than test scores. This predictor is not limited to chronically truant students. Excused absences and unexcused absences have similar impact on student academic performance.

"It is intuitive that higher absenteeism negatively impacts student achievement," said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. "But, for the first time, we have concrete evidence of how much of an impact it has."

The research, conducted by the GaDOE Policy division, used attendance rates, days missed, and graduation rates as indicators. For the 2010 academic year, almost 10% (180,995) of Georgia's students missed 15 or more days – both excused and unexcused absences. The number of 8th graders missing 15 or more is even greater at 12.3% (13,913). Given the alarming number of students missing more than 15 days of school, researchers at the Georgia Department of Education launched an initiative to analyze the potential impact of absenteeism on achievement outcomes.

Using data from the 2007 cohort of first-time 9th graders, the GaDOE has found a substantial decrease in student graduation rate as it relates to 8th, 9th, and 10th grade absences. For these students in particular, missing 11 to 14 days of instruction in the 8th grade (2006) is equated to an estimated graduation rate of 52.33% compared to an estimated graduation rate of 78.73% for those who missed 0 days in 8th grade – a decrease of slightly more than 26%. The difference in graduation rate based on 9th graders for the same attendance group was slightly more than 25% and greater than 18% for 10th grade students.

In a similar fashion, GaDOE researchers also used 2010 CRCT testing data to analyze the impact of attendance on standardized test performance. Results estimated that increasing student attendance by just 3% percent (or 5 instructional days on a traditional 180 school calendar) could have led to over 10,000 more students passing the CRCT Reading test and over 30,000 more students passing the CRCT Mathematics test.

"This research will help us as parents and educators to strategically improve attendance rates among Georgia's students," said Superintendent Barge. "We can use this information to change the conversation, especially as it relates to excused versus unexcused absences. The data is clear that excused and unexcused absences have the same negative impact."

The GaDOE recommends the following three steps to change the culture for higher student attendance: Awareness, Acceptance, and Action.

The GaDOE has developed a Student Attendance Toolkit with a host of materials and links to assist in addressing the issues of attendance. To view the toolkit click on the following link: http://www.gadoe.org/pea_policy.aspx?PageReq=PEAPolicyAttendance.