A few months into each school year, I could anticipate which students would miss school the most. For certain students, I could also anticipate that I should mark them tardy instead of absent if they weren’t in class when the bell rang. I decided to look deeper into this for some students. One student missed the beginning of the day nearly every Thursday. There was definitely a pattern.
A different student missed school almost every Friday; it was another pattern. When I asked these students about these attendance patterns, I found out their stories. The first student had to work every Wednesday until after midnight. He slept in on Thursdays, sometimes missing the beginning of the school day. The second student had to work at his family’s store some Fridays because his father needed the extra help. Originally, I was upset at these students, but after looking at their attendance patterns and talking to them, I understood them better. Something as simple as looking at this available data helped me immensely.
There are a few classroom data sources that are accessible and insightful to start with, but attendance stands out to me. Attendance is a natural introduction to using data because it is available to everyone. Every teacher has to take attendance. Sometimes, teachers have to take attendance multiple times each day (e.g. at the beginning of the day, after lunch, at the beginning of each period, etc.). Attendance data is collected, and in a lot of cases, that is all. It’s collected and mostly forgotten. However, like I wrote about at the beginning of this post, attendance data can help you find out valuable information about individual students or entire groups of students.
Attendance data is a good place to start because, no matter how effective the school and teachers are, students don’t benefit unless they are in school. Looking at detailed attendance data for students can provide extremely valuable information that can help teachers and administrators get students to school.
- Does a particular student miss school every Friday?
- Does a student miss school for long periods at a time or sporadically throughout the week?
- Is a student late to school every Wednesday?
These questions can be answered using a simple look at attendance data. Once the data is understood, teachers and administrators can begin to make changes and improve students’ attendance. This data can be a really useful part in getting to know students’ stories and finding new ways to help them. When I started looking at my attendance data, I began to get a deeper picture of my students’ lives, and I gained valuable insight into how I could help them succeed.
When I started looking at data, I only looked at individual student’s attendance data. I learned a lot about two students just by looking at their attendance. Moving forward, instead of looking at students individually, there are many more things you can do with attendance data. You can compare attendance data across school years. Do students always seem to miss more school in March than in other months? Are students more likely to be tardy in February? These questions are more advanced that just looking at one student’s attendance, but they can help improve overall attendance at your school. Attendance data can become an important part of your school or district’s improvement plan. Do you have any other ideas on how to quickly start using available data? Share it with us!
Director of Professional Development