Absences due to skipping class add up. Most attendance statistics released to the public do not include time lost due to cutting classes, yet missing individual classes accounted for as many total missed days as full-day absences, according to new research in the journal AERA Open.
Researchers Camille R. Whitney of Mindful Schools and Jing Liu of Stanford University studied the individual class attendance of more than 50,000 middle and high school students in an urban school district from 2007–08 to 2012–13. When partial-day absences were factored in, the chronic absenteeism rate (defined as missing 10 percent or more of school) increased from 9 percent to 24 percent of the district’s secondary students. Whereas 55 percent of full-day absences are unexcused, 92 percent of part-day absences are unexcused.
Asian and white students are less likely on average to skip class. So when partial-day absences are factored into the statistics, the gap in the chronic absentee rate grows significantly wider between white and Asian students and their black and Hispanic counterparts.
How often students skip classes gradually increases as students move through middle school. There is a significant jump in frequency when students make the transition to 9th grade. It remains high in grades 10 and 11, and another significant jump occurs in grade 12.
Students tended to skip core subjects less often than noncore subjects. The most popular class to cut was physical education, while students missed social studies the least. Among core subjects, students skipped math the most.
But the time of day influences student decisions to skip class more than subject matter. Predictably, classes held during the first and last periods of the school day are the most likely to be skipped. The researchers suggested scheduling study halls or advisory periods at the beginning and end of the school day to bookend critical classes.