The common sense idea that missing school hurts student achievement has received analytical support. A recently released state-by-state analysis of national testing data by Attendance Works demonstrates that students who miss more school than their peers score lower on the National Assessment for Educational Progress [NAEP]. This finding is true for every age, every racial and ethnic group, and in every city and state examined.

The Attendance Works report examined the 2013 NAEP results for fourth and eighth grade students. These results, in addition to providing math and reading results, also contain survey information from students who report on how many days of school they missed in the month prior to the exam. The report defined three or more absences in this time period as “poor attendance.”

The report concluded that the association between poor attendance and lower NAEP scores is “robust” and significant.

For example, while students with poor attendance had lower math and reading scores than their peers, fourth grade reading scores and eighth grade math scores for students with poor attendance were more than a full grade level lower than for those students with good attendance.

The Attendance Works report reinforces other research on the effects of chronic absenteeism. For example, it points to other studies that show that absenteeism reduces both graduation rates and college completion rates; that as early as sixth grade absenteeism becomes an indicator of high school drop outs; that there is a link between kindergarten and preschool absenteeism and a child’s ability to master reading by third grade; and that poor attendance in the first month of school can predict chronic absence for the entire school year.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations to improve student attendance. With all of the state and federal efforts and initiatives to improve student performance, it appears that the first effort may be to get students to school.

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