“Developing truants” have higher dropout rates than chronic truants

2809961438_56d48f9969_zFrequent absence in high school is a well-known sign that a student is at risk of dropping out. But what about attendance patterns in elementary and middle school? Does that provide any warning signs that a child may not graduate?

Children who begin to miss more school in late elementary and middle school are more likely to drop out of school than chronic truants or children who habitually miss school in the early elementary years, says a new study in The Clearing House.

Researcher Jason Schoeneberger did a group-based trajectory modeling of the K-12 attendance of students from a large and diverse urban high school in the southeastern U.S. The school had a high dropout rate.

Schoeneberger found 4 patterns of attendance in his data. The group with the highest dropout rate were not the chronic truants but the developing truants, those who began to miss more school in late elementary school and middle school.

The 4 attendance groups are:

  • Constant attendees (79.3%) Rarely miss more than 10% of registered school days.
  • Developing truants (9.8%) Exhibit a pattern of increased absenteeism beginning in late elementary school and becoming more pronounced in middle school.
  • Early truants(7.6%) Miss more than 10% of registered days in elementary school.
  • Chronic truants (3.4%) Have the highest prevalence of missing school across all grade levels with a further increase during the late elementary/early middle school years.

“District leaders should make use of data collection systems to compile student-level attendance patterns that can be tracked longitudinally to identify students exhibiting patterns of absenteeism that align with those shown to exist in this study,” the author writes.

“Longitudinal Attendance Patterns: Developing High School Dropouts” by Jason Schoeneberger, The Clearing House, Volume 85, 2012, pp. 7-14.

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