The Importance of Being in School: A Report of Absenteeism in the Nation's Public Schools
Summary: Attendance is significantly correlated with academic performance. Definitions and collection of data regarding chronic absenteeism are not standardized or reported reliably, but this study suggests a national rate between 10 and 15%. High-poverty urban areas report up to 1/3 of students chronically absent, bolstering our effort to begin this program in Philadelphia. Absenteeism is negatively and linearly related to performance on both reading and math achievement tests. As the War Against Poverty is widely regarded to be a failed effort, it is worth noting the long-term effects of reducing chronic absenteeism. One of the most effective strategies for breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty appears to be through getting kids from impoverished neighborhoods to attend school every day, increase graduation and matriculation rates, and drive up economic productivity and social progress.
Meeting the Challenge of Combating Chronic Absenteeism
Summary: The deleterious effects of chronic absenteeism have been acknowledged by other major East Coast cities (namely, New York City), as reflected by the NYC Mayor's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. This mixed methods report uses qualitative and quantitative methods to test the effects of the task force's efforts. The task force tackled chronic absenteeism in the following ways: a mentorship program, weekly meetings between involved parties (principals, mentor leaders, etc), new models for connecting students and parents to local community resources, promoting awareness, increasing accountability, and providing students with incentives. Overall, findings were that these strategies were significant in reducing chronic absenteeism. Most of the strategies are beyond the scope of this non-profit, but by adopting an incentive structure, our pilot study will try to isolate and test what we believe to be the most effective strategy.
Chronic Elementary Absenteeism: A Problem Hidden in Plain Sight
Though chronic absenteeism is such an acute problem in our nation's schools, school districts and state governments simply do not track this data. Average Daily Attendance (ADA) is the metric reported to school districts; even a school with a satisfactory ADA can still have very high occurrences of chronic absenteeism. By tracking individual data in the ValuED platform, schools will be able to identify and treat this problem.
Public School Graduates and Dropouts From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2007 - 08
Summary: Although we may expect dropout rates to decrease as students get closer to graduation, the opposite is true: rates are highest for 12th graders and lowest for 9th graders. In our pilot, we intend to incentivize all of the students, regardless of grade, but future, full scale implementation may consider just rewarding students in higher grades.
The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School
Summary: Unemployment is often a result of dropping out of high school. This is exacerbated by poor markets, as demonstrated by an unemployment rate of 54% for dropouts during 2008. Minorities and low socioeconomic status individuals are hit particularly hard, as they are both more likely to dropout, and more likely to experience joblessness solely because of their lower socioeconomic status. This suggests that our pilot will target the most at-risk population. In terms of income, this joblessness and underemployment results in dropouts making just over half of what high school graduates make. Over his/her lifetime, the average high school dropout will have a negative net fiscal contribution to society of nearly -$5,200, while the average high school graduate generates approximately $287,000 over his/her lifetime.
Saving Futures, Saving Dollars: The Impact of Education on Crime Reduction and Earnings
Summary: High school dropouts are significantly more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. In the United States, between 56% and 69% of inmates (depending on type of correctional facility) did not complete high school. Improving graduation rates would not only relieve some of the budget pressure surrounding incarceration, but would also result in increased lifetime earnings and tax revenues, increased buying power, and lower unemployment rates and health costs. To educate a student costs less than half of what it costs to house an inmate, suggesting that reallocation of money to improve education outcomes in the short term would pay significant dividends. One conservative estimate suggests that a 5% increase in high school male graduation rate would result in approximately $18.5 billion in annual savings. The Alliance for Excellent Education cites zero-tolerance policies that criminalize and alienate students (disproportionately minority students) as a significant predictor of dropout rates. Specifically, suspension is a risk factor for dropping out. This last point is of particular significance. Our incentive program hopes to reduce the activity that may result in a suspension because the students will have a concrete and universal punishment (i.e., loss of payment). A secondary, and perhaps immeasurable effect, is the positive ripple effect resulting from less antisocial and more prosocial behavior in the school overall.
Well and Well-Off: Decreasing Medicaid and Health-Care Costs by Increasing Educational Attainment
Summary: The circular relationship between educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and health outcomes suggest that the implications of improving one may have significant effects on the other two. Additionally, as Medicaid budgets make up a substantial part of the national budget, it is in the interest of the taxpayers to explore possible cost-saving measures, including improving educational outcomes. Medicaid costs for a graduate are estimated to be about 50% less than the costs of a high school dropout. More tangibly, every dropout costs approximately $16,000 per lifetime in medical costs over the course of his/her lifetime. As an example of how these costs accrue, consider the following: 15% of individuals aged 25+ are high school nongraduates (neither degree nor GED). If 50% of those had in fact graduated, the US would have saved $7.3 billion in Medicaid costs in 2012 alone. These savings would accrue year over year. While the main focus of education improvement has arguably been on incarceration, it is important to focus on other benefits.
Substance Use Among 12th Grade Aged Youths by Dropout Status
High school dropouts typically have higher rates of substance abuse than high school graduates. Those who dropout of high school and become dependent on drugs/alcohol may influence their peers to do the same, thus perpetuating the cycle. In addition to the risks that come with being a high school dropout (poverty, joblessness, etc.), these effects are exacerbated when an individual is addicted to drugs/alcohol. Prevention efforts that target those at risk for dropping out of high school may also simultaneously and significantly reduce dependency issues in youth.