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Study Reveals Teacher Perceptions of Chronically Absent Students

Early elementary school teachers view chronically absent students less positively, even when they cause no trouble in the classroom, according to a new study published in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Michael GottfriedMichael GottfriedThe study by Drs. Michael A. Gottfried and Phil H. Kim at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Tina Fletcher at the Walton Family Foundation found that teachers report feeling less close to chronically absent students — a “cooling down” in the relationship between teachers and absentee students (those missing at least 11 school days) that may exacerbate their academic challenges.

“Our findings suggest that absenteeism puts students at a double disadvantage,” said Gottfried. “First, they miss out on essential learning opportunities by not being in school. And then it erodes their teachers’ relationships with them, which can further harm their academic growth.”

The study used nationally representative data from the National Center for Education Statistics on 14,370 students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Data were drawn from direct assessments of children, parent interviews, and education and administrator questionnaires.

Gottfried said the study spotlights chronic absenteeism as an individual and classroom issue that deserve attention given absenteeism rates nearly doubled between the 2021–22 school year (at 30%) and 2018–19, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We need to pay attention to both if we are aiming to solve the absenteeism crisis,” Gottfried said.

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