Research: Absenteeism contributes to low test scores, school rankings

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Research show students who miss a lot of class do worse on standardized tests – which impacts their school’s ranking, and the community as a whole.

School leaders tell us catching chronic absenteeism at the elementary level is key to preventing it in later grades.

“It’s really important for younger students, it’s really more of a cultural impact or a mindset,” said Cranston School Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse. “Their job is to come to school every day on time, participate and do their best. And once that’s embraced at first grade, kids have a better chance at being successful.”

The average rate of chronic absenteeism at the elementary level in Rhode Island is 13 percent.

We checked all 190 elementary schools in the state and found 60 perform worse than average.

Schools with the highest absenteeism rates:

  • South Kingstown Integrated Pre-K at 51 percent
  • Governor Aram J. Pothier in Woonsocket at 60 percent
  • Captain G. Harold Hunt in Central Falls at 66 percent

Among the state’s 61 middle schools, the average rate of chronic absenteeism is 15 percent – and 18 schools perform worse than that average.

Among 61 high schools, the average rate goes up to 24 percent – 25 schools came in worse than average.

Among those high schools with the highest rates:

  • Shea Senior High School in Pawtucket at 42 percent
  • Woonsocket High School at 47 percent
  • Central and Hope high schools in Providence, each coming in at 55 percent

The best performing high school in the state when it comes to chronic absenteeism was Ponaganset in Foster-Glocester – with just a four percent rate.

We also found six elementary schools who came in under one percent.

Officials in Cranston said a mentoring program involving some frequently absent students has really helped improve student success in the classroom. For more on that story, click here.

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