Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Teens Skip a Lot of School, Believe Parents Have No Idea

Regular school attendance is critical to academic success, yet a new report from the Get Schooled Foundation reveals young people are often unaware that skipping even a few days of school can dramatically affect their grades and even decrease their odds of graduating. Further, students who skip a lot of school say their parents could have a big impact on improving their attendance, but for the most part their parents don’t know how often they cut class.

The report, “Skipping to Nowhere,” is based on in-depth interviews with more than 500 teens in 25 cities. The interviews revealed that most students face few or minor immediate consequences for skipping school, and many do not think missing class impacts their grades, their chances of graduating, or whether they’ll attend college. According to the report, more than 80 percent of students who skip school once a week believe it is unlikely they will fall behind in class.

Research shows that student achievement suffers after only five absences. And students who miss more than 10 days of school are more than 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and are 25 percent less likely to enroll in college, according to the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. In fact, a 2011 New York City study suggests that just five absences a year impacts student achievement and college readiness.

Class cutting transcends socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds. The interviews, conducted by Hart Research, revealed that students who do skip tend to skip a lot: Nearly half (46 percent) of skippers are absent at least part of the day about once a week or more.

These students believe their parents largely don’t know about their skipping habits: 42 percent of students said their parents “never” or “rarely” know when they skip school. This is despite the fact that 65 percent of these same students said their teachers, principals, and others have talked to them about their skipping habits.

The interviews gave students a chance to share why they skip, and what they’re doing when cutting class. More than 61 percent of school skippers find school boring and uninteresting. When they are not in school they are most likely “hanging out with friends” (65 percent). Students offered their ideas on how to change their skipping habits:

1. Make more visible the importance of attendance. Students suggest that if they understood the consequences of their absences, they’d be much less likely to skip.

2. Make school more engaging. Students yearn for a connection between their “real lives” and what they learn in school.

3. Deliver the right message with the right messengers. Parents, a trusted teacher, and a respected artist, athlete, or celebrity can have a dramatic effect on student decision-making when it comes to school attendance.

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