NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Taking A Second Look At School Attendance

June 27, 2000

Schools used to hand out "perfect attendance" awards at the end of the academic year. Few do so now -- showing that the importance of attending classes has slipped in priority.

But the link between performance and attendance is so obvious that education researchers are beginning to pay more attention to it.

  • When data experts analyzed the performance of Rochester, N.Y., students on the statewide English Regents exam, they found that students scoring in the 85th to 100th percentile attended school 93 percent of the time.
  • Students scoring in the 65th to 84th percentile attended classes 91 percent of the time.
  • Students who attended school only 85 percent of the time scored below the 54th percentile.
  • School officials in Minneapolis looked at eighth-grade scores on a basic-skills test and found that students attending school 95 percent of the time passed at twice the rate of those attending only 85 percent of the time.

When a University of Minnesota researcher analyzed the Minneapolis data, he concluded that attendance was a stronger predictor of student achievement than poverty -- which has long been regarded as the most powerful indicator.

Back in Rochester, school officials are ratcheting up the attendance requirement -- so that by the year 2004 students will have to attend school at least 93 percent of the time. Previously, they had only been required to be in classes 85 percent of the time.

Source: Editorial, "Skip Class, Lose Ground," USA Today, June 27, 2000.


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