Schools focus on attendance see scores climb

first_imgSEATTLE — The finding was hard to believe, but year after year and in state after state, the numbers kept bearing it out: Sixth-graders who missed 20 days of class had, at best, a 20 percent chance of graduating from high school on time.This was a bombshell for researcher Bob Balfanz, who’d spent most of his career trying to understand the factors driving 1 million American students to drop out each year. He’d paced school hallways and sat through hundreds of hours of classroom instruction.But in 2007, after tracking 13,000 middle-schoolers for eight years in Philadelphia, Balfanz finally isolated a red flag common to all who, years later, failed to graduate on time: a history of poor attendance.“You’d think, ‘Hey, it’s only sixth grade, you can recover and grow out of this,’” he said.Yet Balfanz, based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, found that missing as few as 10 days a year has a cumulative impact, weakening the foundation upon which all other school achievement builds.More surprising still, school attendance averages, while widely reported, are highly misleading. A district may accurately note rates of 90 percent, but still have hundreds of students missing weeks of instruction because that number is an aggregate — concealing the fact that different students are absent on different days.last_img

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