Attendance can have serious implications for academic outcomes. Time and again, research has shown when students aren’t in school, the likelihood they’ll succeed academically drops severely. By 3rd grade, poor attendance can influence whether or not a student can read at grade level. And by 6th grade, excessive absenteeism is a leading influence on whether or not a student will drop out.

This tie to academics – and the fact that chronic absenteeism numbers continue to grow each year – is why the federal government has labeled chronic absenteeism a national crisis.

We as a nation need to get students back in class. We need to reduce chronic absenteeism, yes. But any seasoned educator will remind us that truancy behaviors do not begin the first day a student is absent from class, but rather such school avoidance behavior tends to develop early on in a chronically truant student’s school career. And knowing tardiness often becomes a precursor to absenteeism, reducing partial day absences and tardiness deserves our full attention too.

Not all absences are equal.
For many educators, this may seem intuitive. Some students can miss a few days and they’re able to catch up on the material they missed. But for others, the opposite is true: absences can snowball, leaving a student continually academically behind.

4 Behavior Warning Signs a Student Will Struggle with Attendance
Data has shown that particular groups of students are indeed more likely to become chronically absent. Knowing this can actually help educators, because when these students exhibit certain attendance-related behaviors, like tardiness to school or class or absenteeism, educators can read these actions as early warning signs of an impending chronic problem. Behavior from these groups is, essentially, a red flag indicating they’re at serious risk of falling behind.

Educators can watch for these behavior warning signs:

  1. Tardiness to School & Absences Before 3rd Grade: Data studies have found that the youngest students tend to have some of the highest rates of chronic absenteeism – and it’s almost always due to a family situation or the student’s at-home life. In grades K-2, educators can keep a close eye on tardy-to-school and frequent absences early in the year and read them as warning signs that family factors are at play. By intervening at the family level, educators can discover the cause and correct the student’s course.
  2. Tardiness to Class or School & Absences in Grades 11-12: National data shows that chronic absenteeism begins to rise in middle school and continues climbing through 12th grade. And with absences likely to increase as a student gets closer to graduation, seniors often have the highest rate of all. In grades 11 & 12, educators can read tardiness to class, tardiness to school, and excessive absences as warning signs of a growing behavior trend. Pay particular attention to behavior during the first quarter as “half the students who miss 2-4 days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school” the stats show.
  3. Chronically Absent Students with Younger Siblings: When siblings in different age groups attend the same schools, it’s entirely possible younger students will exhibit similar behaviors as the older children. Educators can note family relations and keep an eye on attendance and tardy behavior of siblings. When the older student struggles, it’s a warning sign the younger students may too.
  4. Students Who Struggled at Previous Schools: Research indicates behavior patterns, even years in advance, can persist long-term, finding “a strong relationship between sixth-grade attendance and the percentage of students graduating on time or within a year of their expected high school graduation.”

    Educators can ask feeder schools for their reactive failures (the outgoing cohort students that need incoming help to become successful). Take notice to the incoming cohort and their adaptability in assimilating to their new environment. If any are struggling with tardiness or absences in their first year on campus, that behavior is a warning sign attendance is likely to continue over the years.

From Warning Signs to Prevention Policies
Many of the educators we work with are successfully turning these warning signs into prevention policies. They’re using attendance-related behavior patterns, including excessive tardiness, to identify the students who are likely to seriously struggle with absenteeism and eventually academics.

For behavior analysis capabilities, they’re using tools like HeroReady district- or schoolwide. HeroReady specifically allows educators to see, at a glance, the students with partial day absences and tardy-to-school and/or tardy-to-class behavior. Combining this with their attendance data, educators gain a powerful picture of the students who are at a high risk of expressing serious attendance issues or becoming chronically absent. Most importantly, then they can apply targeted interventions and tactics to figure out why the students are missing school and how they can get students to return.

Looking for additional help with chronic absenteeism?

Grab a copy of Curbing Chronic Absenteeism: Six Real Actions Local Leaders Can Take To Make A Big Difference. This insightful free guide can help educators uncover why chronic absenteeism is happening in their school(s) and how to successfully intervene to improve outcomes.