Nationwide, students are absent from school in large numbers and for a myriad of well-known reasons, including illness, suspension, and truancy. But they also miss school for less obvious reasons, such as poor transportation, fears of personal safety, disengagement, unwelcoming schools, school policies that push them out, and family- or work-related responsibilities.
Too often, parents and guardians, schools, communities, and city agencies perpetuate the cycle of disengagement and absenteeism either with indifference or with punitive responses to absence. Researchers are just now delving into the short- and long-term effects of school absence; this emerging body of research shows that frequent absence unambiguously predicts later academic problems, dropout, and even criminal justice involvement.
This paper, the first in OSI-Baltimore's Student Attendance series, reviews local, state, and national data on habitual truancy and chronic absence, including who is absent, why, and what the outcomes of school absence are. It also outlines the major policies impacting school attendance: weak and indifferent attendance policies, harsh discipline policies that undermine school climate, and accountability systems based largely on standardized test scores.