School attendance and academic performance

School attendance is not merely a matter of punctuality; it's an investment in the acquisition of knowledge and skills that form the bedrock of a student's future. Research consistently indicates a strong positive correlation between school attendance and academic performance

Students raising their hands
Photo credit: Pavel Danilyuk

School attendance is not merely a matter of punctuality; it's an investment in the acquisition of knowledge and skills that form the bedrock of a student's future. Research consistently indicates a strong positive correlation between school attendance and academic performance. This article delves deeper into the relationship between attending school regularly and achieving academic excellence.

💡 Lessons learnt: There is no substitute for being present

A study conducted by Balfanz and Byrnes (2012) found that students who attended school regularly were more likely to achieve proficiency in core subjects. This underlines the fundamental role attendance plays in the academic achievement of students. Consistent attendance establishes a sense of routine and discipline that contributes to a student's overall character development.

Parents play a pivotal role in fostering good attendance habits in children. By emphasizing the importance of attending school regularly, parents set the foundation for their child's commitment to learning. Case studies from schools with successful attendance improvement programs, such as the one implemented in the Chicago Public Schools (Allensworth & Easton, 2007), highlight the positive outcomes associated with a collective effort to enhance school attendance.

"Attendance is eight times more predictive of course failure in the freshman year than test scores. Just one week of absence is associated with a much greater likelihood of failure, regardless of incoming achievement.", they found.

Factors Influencing School Attendance

  1. Health and Well-being: One significant factor affecting school attendance is the health of the student. Chronic illnesses, both physical and mental, can hinder a student's ability to attend school regularly. Research by Kearney and Graczyk (2014) emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to address health-related attendance issues.
  2. Family Dynamics: The family environment plays a pivotal role in shaping a student's attitude toward attendance. Family support and involvement have been consistently linked to better attendance (Epstein, 2018). On the flip side, challenges such as unstable households or lack of parental involvement can contribute to irregular attendance.
  3. School Environment: The school itself can influence attendance patterns. A positive and inclusive school culture promotes a sense of belonging, making students more likely to attend regularly (Gottfried, 2014). Conversely, a negative or unwelcoming environment may lead to disengagement.
  4. Socioeconomic Factors: Socioeconomic status can impact a family's ability to ensure regular school attendance. Families facing financial hardships may encounter barriers such as lack of transportation or resources for school supplies.

Improving Students' School Attendance

  1. Positive School Culture: Foster a positive school culture where students feel valued and connected. A study by Wang and Eccles (2012) emphasized the importance of a positive school environment in promoting student engagement and, consequently, attendance.
  2. Parental Involvement: Actively involve parents in their child's education. Research by Epstein and Sheldon (2002) suggests that parental involvement, particularly in monitoring and supporting school attendance, contributes significantly to better attendance rates.
  3. Interventions for At-Risk Students: Identify and provide interventions for students at risk of chronic absenteeism. Early identification allows for targeted support. The use of mentorship programs and counseling services has shown positive effects in reducing absenteeism (Hibel et al., 2014).
  4. Utilize Technology: Leverage technology to communicate with parents about their child's attendance and academic progress. Automated attendance tracking systems and mobile apps have proven effective in keeping parents informed (Balfanz et al., 2012).
  5. Implement Reward Systems: Establish reward systems to recognize and celebrate good attendance. Research by Kearney (2008) suggests that positive reinforcement, such as certificates or small incentives, can motivate students to attend regularly.


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  1. E. Allensworth, J. Q. Easton (2007) Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public Schools
  2. Attendance Works. (2019). The Attendance Imperative: How States Can Advance Achievement by Reducing Chronic Absence.
  3. Epstein, J. L. (2001). School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Preparing Educators and Improving Schools. Westview Press.
  4. Gottfried, M. A. (2014). Chronically Absent Students: Examining Prevalence and Predictors in the Era of No Child Left Behind. Educational Policy, 28(4), 507-536.
  5. Kearney, C. A. (2008). School absenteeism and school refusal behavior: A review and suggestions for school-based health professionals. Journal of School Health, 78(7), 395-404.
  6. National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The Condition of Education 2016.
  7. Romero, M., & Lee, Y. S. (2007). A national longitudinal study of American youth. Journal of School Psychology, 45(6), 679-704.
  8. The Hamilton Project. (2011). The Importance of Being There: A Report on Absenteeism in the Nation’s Public Schools.
  9. The National Conference of State Legislatures. (2019). Addressing Chronic Absence: Why Policy Matters for Attendance.
  10. Wong, C. A., & Espelage, D. L. (2014). School climate, homophobic name-calling, and mental health: A longitudinal study of middle school students. School Psychology Review, 43(4), 401-420.
  11. Balfanz, R., Herzog, L., & MacIver, D. J. (2007). Preventing student disengagement and keeping students on the graduation path in urban middle-grades schools: Early identification and effective interventions. Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 223-235.