Often-absent students score lower on NAEP

A state-by state analysis released Tuesday shows that students who were frequently absent from school did worse on the National Assessment of Educational Progress than those who were not.

Fourth-grade students who reported that they had missed three or more days of school prior to the 2013 test had reading scores that were 12 points lower than students with no absences. That is the equivalent of more than a full grade level, according to the test’s scale.

Eighth-grade students who missed three or more days scored an average of 18 points lower on the math test.

The report, released by the advocacy group Attendance Works, showed that attendance played a role in academic performance across the board.

“This is true at every age, in every subject, in every racial and ethnic group and in every state and city examined,” the report said.

The NAEP is given every two years to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students in all 50 states and 21 large cities.

About one in five test takers reported on a related questionnaire that they were absent three or more times in the month before the test. In the District, the rate of absenteeism was higher — about 27 percent. In Maryland and Virginia, the rate was about the national average.

Growing research has shown the harmful educational effects of being absent. Missing more school is linked to repeating grades in consecutive years and higher dropout rates and has been cited as a cause for the achievement gap among demographic groups. Poor and minority students are more likely to be frequently absent from school.

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Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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