UMN Expert: Chronic absenteeism and the opportunity gap in K-12 education

Amber Humm-Patnode

Recent nationwide data states that nearly eight million students were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year. In 2015, 13 percent of Minnesota students in first through 12th grades were chronically absent. In all, that’s 100,927 students who missed nearly a month or more of school.

Minnesota has adopted chronic absenteeism or consistent attendance as an indicator of school quality, which is defined as attending more than 90 percent of school days during the school year.

The impact of chronic absenteeism on student achievement and on-time graduation rates have been widely demonstrated. The reasons students are chronically absent are multi-faceted and span a variety of categories: health, transportation, mental health, engagement, legal system involvement, suspensions and school stress.

Amber Humm-Patnode, associate director of innovation and outreach in the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota, says that while many believe nothing can be done about the causes of chronic absenteeism, correctly identifying the causes and appropriate interventions can improve attendance rates.

Amber Humm-Patnode, Ph.D.
“In order for educators to effectively select and implement interventions that have an increased likelihood of reducing absences, they must have an accurate understanding of the reasons students are absent and match interventions to need.

“Reliance solely on educator perceptions of the reasons for student absences increases the likelihood of mismatched interventions resulting in wasted time and money and continued lost instructional time.

“Decreasing rates of chronic absenteeism requires a partnership between districts, schools, families and community partners. Schools working with accurate data can identify needs specific to their students and develop intervention and action plans to address chronic absenteeism at multiple levels.”

Amber Humm-Patnode, Ph.D., is the associate director of innovation and outreach in the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. She has worked with school districts to develop tools for identifying root causes of chronic absenteeism. She also co-developed an equity calculator that identifies disproportionality among student groups in chronic absenteeism rates.

Contact information:
Amber Humm-Patnode, Ph.D.
612-626-1191 (o)
504-250-8201 (c)

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