Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Will raising the compulsory school attendance age improve student outcomes?

A new report from Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic finds that there is insufficient evidence to build a case for or against the policy change. REL Mid-Atlantic examined the research on outcomes in 11 states that raised the compulsory school age during 2002–2011. Recent studies tend to conclude that states that enact stricter compulsory attendance age laws should do so in conjunction with complementary retention and dropout prevention policies that create a comprehensive approach.

The report includes a suggested plan for data collection and analysis that could provide evidence for policymakers considering an increase in the compulsory school attendance age.


States have raised the compulsory school attendance age to 17 or 18, anticipating that a reduction in dropout, truancy, and discipline problems will compensate for the costs of educating students longer.

Maryland raised its compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18 in two stages: from 16 to 17 at the beginning of the 2014/15 school year and from 17 to 18 at the beginning of the 2016/17 school year (Maryland Senate Bill 362, 2012). The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) sought technical assistance from the Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic in fulfilling reporting requirements to the legislature and in implementing the policy changes. The present study includes a review of data from other states that raised their compulsory school attendance age to examine subsequent changes in dropouts, truancy rates, and disciplinary actions and to identify the data needed to track and report the impact of the policy change.

Research Questions:

1. What changes have occurred in dropouts, truancy, and disciplinary actions in states that raised their compulsory school attendance age during 2002–11?
2. What broader social outcomes have been identified based on national databases?
3. How have these states measured changes in these expected outcomes?

Study Design: Data on changes in state compulsory attendance laws was accessed from state websites. Data on the outcomes associated with changes in compulsory attendance age was accessed from government and nongovernment documents. State officials associated with dropout prevention programs were contacted via email for information about outcomes associated with changes to compulsory attendance age.

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