Facing chronic absenteeism at IHS

Kylie O'Keefe

Over 8 million United States students will miss nearly a month of school each year. While this may just seem like a useless statistic, chronic absenteeism is a problem we have been facing here at our very own Ipswich High School. During the 2018 school year, more and more students were found missing days and even weeks for unexcused absences. It has been one of the worst years for attendance on record.

After looking at attendance data from last school year, Mr. Mitchell, other IHS staff members, and some parents thought the attendance policy needed a few major changes.“We needed to do something because the attendance policy hasn’t been updated since the block schedule,” Mitchell says. The real problems come when the absences lead to students falling behind in their classes. Teachers and school administration have had difficulty catching students up when they have missed so many days. Research shows that missing 10% of school (about 18 days) is when it starts to negatively affect a students performance. To promote a more positive and enriching school environment for students, the policy has become a lot stricter. If a student misses 4 or more classes, they will fail that class for the quarter.

 Ipswich High’s strict attendance policy may have been a big change here, but other local schools have established similar policies. Revere High School, where Mr. Mitchell previously worked, is where he stemmed his inspiration for the policy. Revere High as well as the Lynn Public Schools have adopted similar attendance policies in the past few years. Surrounding high schools, like Triton Regional High school also have adopted a similar policy. Their 2018 policy states: “Students will face a failure for the quarter (FA/Administrative Failure) if they would have earned a passing grade yet their total unexcused absences exceed five (5) in a full time course, or two (2) in a part-time course, per quarter.” So far, Mr.Mitchell thinks the policy has been successful. For the beginning of 2019 school year, “There has been 24% percent drop in chronic absences,” Mitchell claims. 

Despite mixed opinions from students and parents about the policy, Mr. Mitchell says there are going to be no changes for the time being. “We will see how things go and how the data looks and what it tells us,” He said. Hopefully as the school year continues, the new attendance policy will help increase the amount of students that come to school each day.