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Who misses school the most?

The EPI article,  Student absenteeism – Who misses school and how missing school matters for performance by Emma García and Elaine Weiss (9/25/18) provides a detailed account of absenteeism based on race and gender.  For example, their chart here is the percent of students that missed three or more days in the month prior to the 2015 NAEP mathematics assessment. There are noticeable differences. For instance, the percentage of Black, White, and Asian (non ELL) that missed three or more days in the month is 23%, 18.3%, and 8.8% respectively.

Why does this matter?

In general, the more frequently children missed school, the worse their performance. Relative to students who didn’t miss any school, those who missed some school (1–2 school days) accrued, on average, an educationally small, though statistically significant, disadvantage of about 0.10 standard deviations (SD) in math scores (Figure D and Appendix Table 1, first row). Students who missed more school experienced much larger declines in performance. Those who missed 3–4 days or 5–10 days scored, respectively, 0.29 and 0.39 standard deviations below students who missed no school. As expected, the harm to performance was much greater for students who were absent half or more of the month. Students who missed more than 10 days of school scored nearly two-thirds (0.64) of a standard deviation below students who did not miss any school. All of the gaps are statistically significant, and together they identify a structural source of academic disadvantage.

These results “… identify the distinct association between absenteeism and performance, net of other factors that are known to influence performance?”  The article has 12 graphs or charts, with data available for each, including one that reports p-values.

About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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