The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that chronic absenteeism rose by 93 percent in the Philadelphia School District during the 2021–22 school year. Research links chronic absenteeism to reduced educational and social engagement and lower math and reading outcomes in the short term. Long-term consequences include poor outcomes later in life, including poverty, diminished health, and incarceration.
Chronic Absenteeism Worse Among Low-Achieving Schools
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) classified 135 of the Philadelphia school district’s 219 schools as “low-achieving.” These schools performed in the lowest 15 percent of schools statewide on PSSA and Keystone assessment tests.
- Students in these low-achieving schools experience rates of absenteeism. Attendance rates are markedly lower (59 percent) than their peers at other district schools (68 percent).
- In the lowest-performing schools, 59 percent of students miss more than 18 school days per year.
Many students must traverse high-crime neighborhoods to get to school, and this risk also leads to higher rates of absenteeism.
Attendance Improves at Charter and Private Schools
While comparable statewide data on chronic absenteeism isn’t available, the Pennsylvania Department of Education does compile average daily attendance for all public schools.
- The statewide average attendance rate is 82 percent.
- Among schools in the bottom 15 percent, on average, a mere 63 percent of students are in attendance on a given day.
- In Philadelphia, the average daily attendance is 68 percent and about 59 percent among the lowest-performing schools.
- Philadelphia charter school attendance rate is higher (72 percent) than the Philadelphia public school rate.
- The attendance rate for Philadelphia Archdiocese high schools is substantially higher (93 percent) than the statewide rate.
Attending school is critical to increased academic performance, higher graduation rates, and successful post-graduation. Every student deserves access to a better and safer school.
Lifeline Scholarships are the solution to getting kids back into the classroom and keeping them there until graduation. Funded by commonwealth tax dollars, Lifeline Scholarships enable students to attend schools that meet their needs, allowing those trapped in low-achieving schools to experience improved outcomes (e.g., higher rates of graduation, improved mental health, higher wages as adults). Students should not be forced to attend failing schools because of their zip code. Every child deserves a lifeline to a better education and a better outcome in life.
Michael A. Gottfried, “Chronic Absenteeism and Its Effects on Students’ Academic and Social Emotional Outcomes,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR) 19, No. 2 (2014): 53–75, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10824669.2014.962696.