A report released by the U.S. Department of Education this week finds that 6.5 million students missed at least three weeks of school last year. And at some troubled schools, up to 40 percent of students may be chronically absent, meaning that they miss at least 10 percent of school days in a year. Yet most schools cannot easily identify those students who are missing the most school because of the way they track (and don’t track) attendance.
Bob Balfanz is out to change that, and to do something to help those students. Balfanz has been working on the problem of chronic absenteeism for over a decade. He has called chronic absenteeism “the biggest thing in school improvement that people have not paid attention to.” However, the topic is getting new attention since it is being tackled by the Obama administration.
In this episode of the EdNext podcast, Bob Balfanz talks with EdNext’s Paul Peterson about chronic absenteeism and about some successful efforts to identify students who are chronically absent and assign them mentors who work with students individually to reduce absences from school.
Balfanz is a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. He has published widely on high school dropouts, early warning systems, and chronic absenteeism, among other things. His work focuses on translating research findings into effective school interventions.
– Education Next