In its new accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act, Minnesota is increasing its attention to consistent attendance as an important indicator of student engagement and school climate, as well as a significant predictor of academic success.
For the purposes of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), a student will be considered to be consistently attending school if they attend more than 90 percent of school days. Consistent attendance is the opposite of chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing at least 10 percent of school days (the equivalent of missing one day out of every two traditional school weeks).
Local school districts and charter schools may also adopt additional measurements of consistent attendance based on local needs. However, when the state is collecting and reporting data on consistent attendance, it will uniformly use the standard of greater than 90 percent attendance.
Why Does Consistent Attendance Matter?
Consistent attendance on its own is an important predictor of a student’s academic success. In general, students who attend school consistently are more likely to achieve academically, graduate high school and succeed in their careers, college experience, or both after high school. This trend is likely to be strongest when a school provides effective academic instruction, an all-around positive school climate, and the ability to address students’ social, emotional and physical health needs.
Consistent attendance can also be a useful indicator of underlying student and family engagement, as well as school climate more broadly. Low consistent attendance – either for students overall or particular student groups – may indicate that students and/or families do not feel connected to school as a result of school climate issues, or they face other outside barriers that the school can help to address. Students may also choose not to attend as a result of ineffective teaching and learning practices or unequal implementation of school policies. By investigating and addressing the causes of low consistent attendance, the school will increase attendance and may see academic benefits.
What Can Schools and Districts Do to Improve Consistent Attendance?
Schools and districts trying to improve their consistent attendance should begin by investigating the reasons for their current consistent attendance rates. While some decision-makers may be tempted to treat attendance as an enforcement problem or pursue punitive approaches to increasing attendance, a more effective approach is to investigate root causes and address the underlying factors that cause students to become chronically absent. Many of these underlying factors can be addressed or at least mitigated by school or district choices and actions, even if some are not under the school or district’s direct control.
A variety of resources exist to help schools and districts improve consistent attendance. For example, the organization Attendance Works lists five broad strategies and provides information and tools for each:
- Recognize good and improved attendance.
- Engage students and parents.
- Monitor attendance data and practice.
- Provide personalized early outreach.
- Develop a programmatic response to barriers as needed.
Schools and districts interested in learning more about analyzing and responding to consistent attendance are encouraged to contact email@example.com or call 651-582-8800 with questions. Staff from across MDE and the Regional Centers of Excellence will provide additional support around improving attendance.
How Will Consistent Attendance be Calculated in Minnesota’s ESSA Accountability System?
Consistent attendance is part of Minnesota’s accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act. This system will be implemented for the first time in the 2018-19 school year, with schools identified in late summer or early fall of 2018. For the calculation of consistent attendance, the system will use data from the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years (since attendance data from the 2017-18 school year will not be finalized in MARSS by the time identifications are made). The system will look at the percentage of students who consistently attend in each student group and in the school overall.
Specifically, each student’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA) will be divided by their Average Daily Membership (ADM). If the student’s ADA divided by ADM is greater than 0.9 (where 1.0 represents perfect attendance), the student will be considered consistently attending. For this reason, it is very important that schools and districts accurately report both ADA and ADM in the Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS). For accountability purposes, only students who have been enrolled at the school for at least half the school year (ADM greater than or equal to 0.5) will be included in this calculation.
Under ESSA, schools will be also be recognized for improvement, with particular attention to the school’s context and the way in which improvement was achieved. This information about context and methods should provide additional ways for schools and districts to find similar schools and districts that have improved consistent attendance.