The Hamilton Project Recommends Measuring Chronic Absences as Fifth Indicator of Student Success


A new report from The Hamilton Project is pushing for a new indicator of school quality and student success, one that's very easy to measure and proves to be effective: chronic absence.

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA, tells states to use five indicators of student success, reports NPR. Three of these indicators are related to academics, while the fourth indicator simply measures the proficiency of English language learners.
States, however, have the prerogative to choose the fifth indicator, which measures student success or school quality. There are many possible choices out there, but the Hamilton Project suggests that schools would choose to measure chronic absences as the fifth indicator.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of The Hamilton Project, said in the report that unlike other possible measures - such as self-reported school climate surveys or "subjective ones" like grade point averages -- chronic absenteeism cannot be manipulated. Efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism are also likely to help students perform better in school.

"Students who are chronically absent have lower performance on standardized tests and are more likely to drop out of school," Schanzenbach told the Washington Post.

"Reducing chronic absenteeism among students will put more students on the path to participating in an economy that increases opportunity, prosperity and growth," she added.

The Hamilton Project report gives several reasons as to why it's best to measure chronic absence, and use it as the fifth indicator the ESSA requires. Here are some of them:

1) It's easy to measure

Schanzenbach says chronic absenteeism can be measured from data that are already collected in schools. There's no need for an additional collection of data.

2) It helps both the students and schools improve

Schanzenbach argues that when schools monitor chronic absences, they will always find ways to reduce the absences. When efforts to reduce absences are made, student achievement is expected to increase.

3) Rates of chronic absences differ in states

Watching out for chronic absence rates will help states know which school to focus on improving, as well as the schools that are already performing well.

Overall, the Hamilton Project believes that when students are chronically absent, they learn less and are likely to have problems staying in school and graduating.

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