University of Rochester student prepping an East High student for a debate

Improving Attendance

Absenteeism is a persistent problem, particularly acute in urban school settings. According to the US Department of Education, six million students (one out of seven) are missing at least 15 days during the school year, increasing their likelihood for lower achievement and dropping out.

With a combination of research literature reviews, visits to urban schools that have demonstrated success at attendance, practitioner briefs, and articles in professional publications, CUES provides resources to schools that aim to improve attendance.

Practitioner Briefs

Attendance Practices That Work: What Research Says, What Practitioners Say (December 2016)
In our effort to learn about best practices in attendance, the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) has been having conversations with principals and assistant principals at urban high schools around New York State. These schools have three things in common: 1) the vast majority of their students are classified as economically disadvantaged; 2) the vast majority of their students represent minority groups; and 3) the schools have notably high attendance figures. We wanted to find out what was behind their successful attendance outcomes. This brief synthesizes several schools’ stories and integrates them with academic research literature, thus providing a comprehensive research brief for those interested in best practices in attendance.

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Attendance Up Close: Reflecting on School Visits (February, 2017)
As a companion to our first brief on attendance, this brief documents a series of visits the Center for Urban Education Success made to several of the schools we identified as exemplars (Marsh, 2016). It uses the categories established in the first brief to organize and synthesize our reflections on meeting students and staff and touring buildings. The data presented here provide a window into the idiosyncratic, context-dependent practices and cultures of schools that are demonstrating success with attendance.

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CUES has completed research at the request of the UR East EPO and from interest expressed by the East educational community. Rooted in our commitment to transparency, our goal is simply to make the original research available to anyone who is interested in delving more deeply into issues related to research in urban education.

CUES has prepared annotated bibliographies on the following related topics:


Belonging in School Spaces

Changing School Culture


Understanding chronic absenteeism: What Research Tells Us about Poor Attendance at School by Valerie Marsh in American Educator Magazine (December 2019). Absenteeism links to low achievement in urban districts. And since urban schools comprise a higher percentage of students of color and students living with poverty, absenteeism can be understood as contributing to the achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts. Thus, reducing absenteeism is a move to reduce inequity.

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Four ways to improve urban school attendance: Engaging environments, personal contact with families, systems, and logistics make difference by Valerie Marsh and Shaun Nelms in the District Administration Magazine (January 2019). This article is based on a combination of academic and practical research that CUES conducted in partnership with East Upper and Lower Schools (Rochester, NY) in the creation of the aforementioned Practitioner Briefs.  

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