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This data story was originally published in September 2015. This story is scheduled for update in 2021. Unfortunately, the visuals are not interactive until the update. Thank you for your patience.
What are the effects of chronic absenteeism in high school on post-secondary persistence and success?
This data story focuses on the linkage of data from K-12 to higher education.
The costs of chronic absenteeism are gaining national attention. Data suggest that 1 in 10 kindergarteners and first-graders are chronically absent every year, missing at least 10% of their school time (AttendanceWorks!). Rates of absenteeism begin to increase each year in middle school and continue to increase in high school as teenagers have more autonomy to skip school.
While no national studies offer an overview of high school chronic absenteeism, large urban districts such as Boston, Baltimore, and New York City report high school absenteeism rates of 35%, 42%, and 35%, respectively.
In Rhode Island, each year, roughly 30% of the state’s high school students are chronically absent.
In this story we follow the high school graduating class of 2009. We start with this cohort of students as they enter the 9th grade in 2005-2006. We focus on the chronically absent and observe them through graduation and on to their enrollment, performance, and persistence in post-secondary education.
Please note the following about our cohort:
Throughout this story, we break high school absenteeism into three categories: low, moderate, and chronic.
These numbers do not discriminate between excused and unexcused absences; lost school time is lost school time.
This is a year-by-year snapshot of absenteeism for the class of 2009, which is the cohort examined in this story.
In this story we follow a cohort of entering 9th grade students from their freshman year in 2005-06 through high school and into post-secondary institutions. While year-by-year snapshots are helpful, we are more interested in students' overall high school absenteeism. Therefore, at each milestone we examine the correlation between their average high school absence rate and various outcomes.
Students who left the cohort include those who transferred out of the state or to a private school, were retained in a previous grade, or were not enrolled for at least 30 days.
13,171 first time 9th grade students enrolled in Rhode Island public schools in the 2005-2006 school year.
4,561 or 35% of those students were chronically absent (on average) during their enrollment in Rhode Island public high schools.
For a typical student that represents over 3½ months of missed school days over the course of their high school career.
On the next page we'll examine how many of these chronically absent students graduate on time.
1,843 or 20% of the students in the class of 2009 who graduated from high school in four years were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 3½ total months of high school. 528 (85%) of the students who dropped out from the class of 2009 were chronically absent in high school.
Note: For the purpose of this story, students were considered high school "graduates" if they Graduated with Regular, Advanced, International Baccalaureate, or Other Type of Diploma, Completed a GED Program, Completed School with Other Credential, or Transferred to a Postsecondary Education.
Of the 1,843 chronically absent high school graduates from the class of 2009, the majority (1,162 or 63%) did not immediately enroll in postsecondary education*. However, 681 (37%) of chronically absent high school graduates enrolled either full- or part-time in postsecondary education in Fall 2009.
This chart shows where all of the 2009 graduates were the Fall after their graduation. From this point forward, the story will focus only on those who enrolled full-time in a public in-state institution.
Of the 681 chronically absent graduates who enrolled in any college in Fall 2009:
Of the 584 chronically absent graduates who enrolled in an in-state college in Fall 2009:
*Postsecondary education as captured in data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) or Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (OPC).
Systemwide*, of the 3,190 class of 2009 graduates who enrolled full-time in RI Public Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2009, 408 (13%) were chronically absent in high school.
* Note: "Systemwide" data represents the state-wide average of all three public institutions together.
Of the 366 students in our cohort of chronically absent graduates who enrolled full-time in RI Public Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2009, 254 (62%) persisted, full time, into their second semester. Of the graduates with low high school absenteeism, 1,507 (83%) persisted.
Of the 408 students in our cohort of chronically absent graduates who enrolled full-time in RI Public Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2009, 159 (39%) persisted, full time, into a second year of post-secondary education. Of the graduates with low high school absenteeism, 1,241 (68%) persisted.
We followed this cohort of 2009 RI public high school graduates over the four years after graduation. In Fall 2012, only 50 (12%) of the 408 chronically absent graduates in our cohort who enrolled full-time in RI Public Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2009 persisted into a fourth year. This compares to 660 (36%) of graduates with low high school absenteeism.
28 (2%) of the 1,843 chronically absent graduates in our cohort enrolled full-time in a RI Public Postsecondary Institution the Fall after graduation and then persisted through a degree within four years. In comparison, 393 (9%) of students with low absenteeism enrolled full-time the Fall after graduation and then persisted through a degree within 4 years.
Across in-state, out-of-state, public and private postsecondary institutions, only 88 (5%) of the 1,843 chronically absent HS graduates in the class of 2009 persisted through a fourth year of full-time postsecondary education compared to 1,560 (34%) of the HS graduates in the low absence category.
At the Federal Level:
At the State Level:
At the Local Level:
Summarized from “The Importance of Being in School” (Balfanz, 2012). Click here to read the full report.