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4 Warning Signs a Student Will Struggle with Attendance

3 min read
Mar 10, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Here are four warning signs a student will struggle with attendance.

Attendance has serious implications for academic outcomes. Time and again, research has shown that when students aren’t in school, the likelihood they’ll succeed academically drops severely.

  • By third grade, poor attendance can influence whether a student can read at grade level. 
  • By sixth grade, excessive absenteeism is a leading influence on whether a student will drop out.

This tie to academics — and the fact chronic absenteeism has been rapidly on the rise — is why the federal government has labeled chronic absenteeism a national crisis.

We as a nation need to get students back in class and reduce chronic absenteeism, yes. But any seasoned educator will remind us that absentee and truancy behaviors do not begin the first day a student is absent from class.

Instead, school avoidance behavior tends to develop early on in a chronically absent 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 still catch up on material they missed.

But for other students, the opposite is true: absences can snowball, leaving them continually academically behind with little hope of ever catching up to their peers.

student tardy to school walking down the street

4 Behavior Warning Signs a Student Will Struggle with Attendance

Data has shown that particular groups of students are 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, tardiness to class, or chronic absenteeism — educators can read these actions as early warning signs of an impending chronic problem and start taking action.

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:

Warning Sign #1: Tardiness to School and Absences Before Third 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 kindergarten through second grade, 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.

Warning Sign #2: Tardiness and Absences in Grades 11–12

National data shows that chronic absenteeism begins to rise in middle school and continues climbing through twelfth grade. And since absences typically increase as a student gets closer to graduation, seniors often have the highest rate of all.

In grades 11 and 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. Half of the students who miss two to four days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school.

Warning Sign #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 the attendance and tardy behavior of siblings.

When the older student struggles, it’s a warning sign their younger siblings may struggle too.

Warning Sign #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 who graduate on time or within a year of their expected high school graduation.

Educators can: 

  • Ask feeder schools for their reactive failures (i.e., the outgoing cohort of students who need incoming help to be successful).
  • Take notice of 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 is your warning sign of attendance behavior that’s likely to worsen.

From Student Attendance Warning Signs to Prevention Policies

Many of the educators SchoolMint works with have successfully turned these warning signs into prevention policies. They use attendance-related behavior patterns, including excessive tardiness, to identify students who are likely to seriously struggle with absenteeism and, eventually, academics.

For behavior analysis and tardy-tracking capabilities, they’re using tools like SchoolMint Hero (district-wide or school-wide) to see the students with partial-day absences, tardy-to-school behavior, and tardy-to-class behavior.

With this attendance data, educators can see which students are at high risk of serious attendance issues — and then you can apply targeted interventions to figure out why the students are missing school and get those students to return.

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