Categories for Policy Initiatives

Chronic Student Absenteeism: A Significant and Overlooked Obstacle to Student Achievement

April 12, 2019

Decades of research document the significant negative impacts of student absenteeism on academic achievement, emotional development, graduation, health, and long-term success (Gottfried, 2015). Yet, until just a few years ago, the U.S. K–12 education system was virtually unaware that it had a chronic student absenteeism problem. Prior to that time, chronic absenteeism was never tracked by school systems, let alone addressed. A recent analysis of the data revealed that a significant number of students (one in seven) were chronically absent, defined as missing 10% of school days (Balfanz & Brynes, 2012). And that was the threshold number. Many students identified as chronically absent missed more than 10%. The corresponding negative impacts worsen with every additional day of school missed. 

This overview looks at the best available evidence on chronic student absenteeism in the context of (1) the scale of the problem at all levels of the education system: national, state, school, and grade; (2) the impact on student academic performance, graduation, health, and financial impact on school districts; (3) impact multipliers that exacerbate chronic absenteeism, such as poverty, student mobility, homelessness, and disciplinary suspensions; and (4) interventions utilizing a public health tiered model for different levels of action depending on need, a performance feedback system to track and modify the results of each intervention, and coordination of resources across a wide range of education stakeholders.

Citation: Keyworth, R., Detrich, R. & States, J. (2019). Overview of Chronic Student Absenteeism: A Significant and Overlooked Obstacle to Student Achievement. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.




How can educators harness big data to benefit students?

February 26, 2019

Big Data and data science: A critical review of issues for educational research. Big data proliferates across a wide spectrum of fields in the 21stcentury. Education is no exception. This paper examines critical issues that must be considered to maximize the positive impact of big data and minimize negative effects that are currently encountered in other domains. This review is designed to raise awareness of these issues with particular attention paid to implications for educational research design in order that educators can develop the necessary policies and practices to address this complex phenomenon and its possible implications in the field of education. 

Citation: Daniel, B. K. (2017). Big Data and data science: A critical review of issues for educational research. British Journal of Educational Technology.




What are the negative health impacts of student absenteeism?

February 1, 2019

The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health. The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a policy statement regarding the negative impact that chronic student absenteeism has on children’s health.  They cite numerous ways the two are linked.  First, evidence clearly documents that chronic absenteeism puts children at a much higher risk of dropping out of school and not graduating. There is a significant amount of research associating poor school performance (resulting in lower education attainment) and poor adult health outcomes, including increased mortality risk and lower life expectancy.  The act of missing school itself is also linked to increased risk behaviors, including alcohol consumption, drug use, smoking and risky sexual behavior.  Also, children with chronic absenteeism are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested or referred to the juvenile justice system.  The policy statement finishes with a discussion of roles the medical community can play working with schools and families to help address this problem.  It reviews the evidence regarding possible physical and mental health interventions, including:  infection prevention programs, school nurses, school-based health centers, mental health care, health awareness school policies and programs, parent interventions, and coordinated school health models.

Citation: Allison, M. A., & Attisha, E. (2019). The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health. Pediatrics, e20183648.




Digest of Education Statistics 2017 Released

January 31, 2019

Digest of Education Statistics 2017: The Digest of Education Statistics 2017was just released by The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This annual publication is thedefinitive compendium of data on virtually every aspects of education from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Its chapters include: All Levels of Education, Elementary and Secondary Education, Postsecondary Education, Federal Funds for Education and Related Activities, Outcomes of Education, International Comparisons of Education, and Libraries and Use of Technology. It draws from a wide range of government and private sources and applies rigorous review to everything published. It has been published annually since 1962, providing over 50 years of data with which to benchmark education performance at the system level in this country.

Citation: Snyder, T.D., de Brey, C., and Dillow, S.A. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics 2017 (NCES 2018-070). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.




High School Dropout and Completion Rates (SY 2016)

December 21, 2018

“Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2018”. Dropping out of high school has significant negative impacts on students. Statistically, they will have lower earnings than high school graduates, are more likely to be unemployed, have poorer health, and have a higher rate of incarceration.  This report provides a detailed analysis of long-term dropout and completion trends and student characteristics of high school dropouts and completers.  The first measure examined was the “event dropout rate” which is the percent of students who drop out in grades 10-12 without a high school diploma or alternative credential. The event dropout rate for SY 2015-16 was 4.8%, which translated into 532,000 students.

The 40 year trend show an alarming lack of progress.  While 2015-16 was lower than in 1976 (5.8%), it reflects a worsening over the last ten years (increasing from 3.8% to 4.8%).  Of all of the student demographic data, the clearest impact was that of family income. Students from the lowest income families had a 7.2% dropout rate compared to 3.9% for highest income families. The “adjusted cohort graduation rate” for 2015-16 was 84% which showed steady improvement over the past five years.  The main problem is the significant differences in graduate rates across race, economic status, states, and disabilities.  For example, graduation rates for white students ranged from 76% in New Mexico to 94% in New Jersey; black students from 57% in Nevada to 88% in West Virginia; Hispanic students from 65% in Minnesota to 89 % in Vermont.


McFarland, J., Cui, J., Rathbun, A., and Holmes, J. (2018). Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2018 (NCES 2019-117). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved December 14, 2018 from




Do students benefit from longer school days?

December 12, 2018

Do students benefit from longer school days? Regression discontinuity evidence from Florida’s additional hour of literacy instruction: This research examines the impact of longer school days on student achievement. The amount of time available for instruction has a role to play in student learning. Insufficient instruction would appear to have an effect on learning, but the current knowledge-base on this topics is insufficient. This study attempts to fill in gaps in the evidence-base on this topic. The results indicate significant positive effects of additional literacy instruction on student reading achievement. Although this study finds positive outcomes for additional reading instruction, it is important to note that for achieving maximum results it is important to pair evidence-based reading instruction practices with the additional instruction time in order to achieve maximum results.

Citation:Figlio, D., Holden, K. L., & Ozek, U. (2018). Do students benefit from longer school days? Regression discontinuity evidence from Florida’s additional hour of literacy instruction. Economics of Education Review67, 171-183.





What obstacles do teachers face in using data for decision making?

December 5, 2018

Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. Underlying many accountability policies is the assumption that standardized test data and other common sources of data will be used to make decisions that will result in changes to instructional practices. This study examines longitudinal from nine high schools nominated as leading practitioners of Continuous Improvement (CI) practices. The researchers compared continuous improvement best practices to teachers actual use of data in making decisions. The study found teachers to be receptive, but also found that significant obstacles were interfering with the effective use of data that resulted in changes in instruction. The analysis showed cultural values and practices inconsistent with accountability policies and continuous improvement practices impede implementation. The researchers identify barriers to use of testing and other data that help to account for the less than successful results. Given the current understanding of the importance on implementation science in the effective application of any new practice, these findings are not a surprise. As our colleague, Ronnie Detrich, is quoted as saying, “Implementation is where great ideas go to die”.

Citation: Ingram, D., Louis, K. S., & Schroeder, R. G. (2004). Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. Teachers College Record106(6), 1258-1287.

LinkAccountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice



Changing Demographics in the Teacher Work Force

November 28, 2018

Seven Trends:  The Transformation of the Teaching Force—Updated October 2018

Teachers play a crucial role in education, make up one of the largest workforces in the country, and require significant resources to support. As a result, tracking trends and changes in the demographic characteristics becomes critically important as education systems allocate existing resources and plan for the future. This study examines the most recent data from staffing surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), as well as those going back to 1987.  Its concludes that over the last three decades the teaching force has become: 1) larger, 2) grayer, 3) greener, 4) more female, 5) more diverse by race-ethnicity, 6) consistent in academic ability, and 7) unstable.  It also calls for more research as to the reasons for these trends and their implications and consequences.

A few highlights include: The rate of increase for teachers has far outpaced the rate of increase for students.  The student population has grown by 24% over this period of time while the teacher workforce has grown by 65%.  The workforce is growing both grayer (retirements have steadily increased) and greener (the modal public school teacher was in their first three years of teaching.  It is has an increasing percent of female teachers (76.6%) as well minority teachers (growth in the number of minority teachers was more than three times the growth rate of white teachers).  The field still suffers from extremely high turnover, with 44.6 % of new teachers leaving their jobs in less than five years.

Citation: Ingersoll, Richard M.; Merrill, Elizabeth; Stuckey, Daniel; and Collins, Gregory. (2018). Seven Trends: e Transformation of the Teaching Force – Updated October 2018. CPRE Research Reports.




What does research tell educators and public about reading?

October 26, 2018

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?

This report and podcast examines the scientific basis for how to teach reading to children. This investigation reveals how children learn to read, emphasizing the five critical components of reading instruction. Unfortunately, most teacher preparation programs ignore the science and, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail. This American Public Media documentary assesses the current knowledge base behind sound reading practices, the positive impact of effective reading practices can have on student reading performance, and the challenges faced in implementing these practices in the face of opposition from practitioners of whole language and proponents of balanced reading instruction.

Citation:Hanford, E, (2018). Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? American Public Media (APM).




How can open science increase confidence and the overall quality of special education research?

August 23, 2018

Promoting Open Science to Increase the Trustworthiness of Evidence in Special Education

The past two decades has seen an explosion of research to guide special educators improve the lives for individuals with disabilities. At the same time society is wrestling with the challenges posed by a post-truth age in which the public is having difficulty discerning what to believe and what to consider as untrustworthy. In this environment it becomes ever more important that researchers find ways to increase special educator’s confidence in the available knowledge base of practices that will reliably produce positive outcomes. This paper offers methods to increase confidence through transparency, openness, and reproducibility of the research made available to special educators. To accomplish this the authors propose that researchers in special education adopt emerging open science reforms such as preprints, data and materials sharing, preregistration of studies and analysis plans, and Registered Reports.

Citation:Cook, B. G., Lloyd, J. W., Mellor, D., Nosek, B. A., & Therrien, W. (2018). Promoting Open Science to Increase the Trustworthiness of Evidence in Special Education.