The Correlation Between Attendance and Achievement at Garey High School (Part 1)

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The current attendance policy at Garey High School is in need of revision. Therefore, the purpose of this research project was to create a school wide action plan to address attendance needs. The question posed was, is there a correlation between attendance and achievement at Garey High School? The project used tenth grade students from the fall semester, 2002. All 193 students in the tenth grade that were flagged by their teachers for poor attendance were selected. Three sources of data were collected from these students; (a) grade point averages, (b) citizenship grades, and (c) teacher reported absence data. The data was put onto an Excel spreadsheet and then a Pearson r test was run to show the strength, direction, and the statistical significance of the variables. Since the answer to the research question had the potential to inform professional practice so that productive changes could be made in the future, solutions to attendance problems that have successfully worked elsewhere were also researched. The findings indicated that there is a moderate to strong correlation between attendance and achievement. Consequently, an action plan for attendance policy revision is included in this research project.

Submitted: October 03, 2009

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Submitted: October 03, 2009

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The Correlation between Attendance and Achievement at Garey High School


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
"Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) Brave New World (p.151, 1932)

The above quote emphasizes that education should instill a sense of discipline. As a child, did you ever find it difficult to do the things you had to do, like brush your teeth, eat your greens, or go to school? Did you ever cut class or ditch school as a teenager, or did you manage to make the “perfect attendance list” every year? If you were one of the average students that cut class every now and again, did you ever worry about the consequences? Probably not, but chronic absenteeism can affect student achievement, self esteem, classroom promotion and can reduce a student’s chances of graduation. These factors together can further reduce a student’s chances of finding gainful employment.
There are many people who think that students with chronic attendance problems should be kept out of school permanently because they disrupt the learning of other more dedicated students and they waste everyone’s time with their lack of educational commitment. This opinion may have some merit in regard to students who just don’t want to be in school, but it does not hold true for the countless other students who do not attend school consistently because of problems in the home or because of other social or cultural issues. These students need to be helped and guided by schools that adhere to a strong, efficient attendance policy, which is also supported by the local community.
Additionally, with increasing importance being placed on student attendance in the evaluation of A.P.I. (Academic Performance Index) and A.Y.P. (Adequate Yearly Progress) scores, it is even more imperative that administrators take a serious look at problems with truancy and that they take a hard line approach in trying to resolve these issues, for the benefit of students and schools in general.

Statement of Purpose
Many schools in Southern California are finding it difficult to meet their A.Y.P. goals because of attendance figures. One such school, Garey High School, situated deep in the heart of Pomona, managed to meet its’ A.P.I. goal this year but failed to meet the appropriate target for A.Y.P. because of poor attendance. The state of California presently uses not only cognitive, but also non-cognitive measures of performance, such as high school attendance and dropout rates in its quest for accountability. Consequently, if attendance has become such a high priority issue for the state of California, it must also become a high priority issue in local schools.
As an educator at Garey High School, I understand the frustrations of my colleagues concerning student attendance. These educators are expected to bring their students up to a particular level of excellence whether the students are actually present in class or not. Most educators at Garey High School take great pride in the successes of students and feel personally responsible for their growth and achievements. As professionals, however we also feel somewhat responsible for our student’s failures. When those failures come from poor attendance issues rather than cognitive deficiencies, we feel doubly saddened by those failures because they are preventable.
The current attendance policy at Garey High School is in need of revision. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to create a school wide action plan to address attendance needs. In researching the problem of attendance at Garey High School, I attempted to answer the question, is there a correlation between attendance and achievement? and consequently provide an action plan for policy revision. Since the answer to the research question had the potential to inform professional practice so that productive changes can be made in the future, I also researched solutions to attendance problems that have successfully worked elsewhere.

Rationale
A school as a social system is composed of individual and subsystems and formal and informal structures in a complex network of interrelationships. As a social system is impacted by internal or external events, it responds. A social system seeks balance, or equilibrium, within itself as well as between the social system and the external environment. Sanctions are involved to reinforce expected behaviors and actions and to restore equilibrium (Chance & Chance, 2002, p.69). According to this educational leadership theory, one of the many positive aspects that could occur through the revision of the current attendance policy at Garey High School is the restoration of equilibrium. Appropriate sanctions must be invoked to reinforce the attendance policy and conducting action research will assist in the development of such sanctions, since the purpose of action research is to devise solutions to significant problems to improve professional practice.
The knowledge generated from this action research can lead to changes in the way attendance policies are devised and enforced in general, however I am particularly interested in improving the rate of attendance at Garey High School. This research can not only improve my practice as an educational leader, it can also help to improve the practice of educational leadership in general by showing that statistically significant research data can enlighten us and point the way to change for the future.
The ultimate goal of this research project was to impact student learning. Reasons for chronic absenteeism had to be found, policies needed be devised, and action needed to be taken to prevent and control the situation.


Questions Answered
1. What previous research has been done concerning attendance and achievement with regard to: (a) causes and effects of chronic absenteeism, (b) affects of attendance on achievement, (c) state and district attendance policies, and (d) successful programs to address these problems?

2. What is the recommended course of action to address these problems at Garey High School?

Assumptions and Delimitations
Assumptions
•The data from Garey High School is correct.
•The research is from within the last 5-7 years.
•The state mandates are current.
Delimitations
•Research will only be conducted at Garey High School.
•Research will only be conducted at the 10th grade level.
•Data will only be collected for the Fall 2002 school semester.

Operational Definition of Terms
A.P.I.
The Academic Performance Index (API) is the cornerstone of California’s Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999 (PSAA). The purpose of the API is to measure the academic performance and growth of schools. It is a numeric index (or scale) that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. A school’s score or placement on the API is an indicator of a school’s performance level. The interim statewide API performance target for all schools is 800. A school’s growth is measured by how well it is moving toward or past that goal. A school’s base year API is subtracted from its growth API to determine how much the school grew in a year.

A.Y.P.
Academic Yearly Progress (AYP) is reported as part of No Child Left Behind, a national education law. California’s AYP calculations are based on four factors:
1)Percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards in English language arts and math
2)Testing participation rate
3)Growth in API score
4)Growth in high school graduation rate
Proficiency in English language arts and math is determined by performance on: California Standards Tests (grades 2-8), California Alternate Performance Assessment (students with disabilities grades 2-8, 10), California High School Exit Exam (grade 10). AYP is determined for: School districts (all students), Schools (all students), Student Subgroups at schools and districts, if numerically significant, socioeconomically disadvantaged, English learners and students with disabilities.
Schools receiving Title I funds that do not make AYP two years in a row enter Program Improvement (PI). Once in PI, a school must offer students the choice to transfer to another school with paid transportation. Extra services are offered to students if a school continues in PI. A school is eligible to exit PI if it makes AYP two years in a row.

Overview of Related Chapters
The Literature Review, in Chapter Two, exposes the current research linking attendance with achievement, describes causes and effects of chronic absenteeism and discusses solutions to attendance problems that have worked elsewhere. The Methodology, in Chapter Three, includes information about the three sources of data used for triangulation. The Findings, in Chapter Four, analyze and interpret the data collected. Finally, the Summary, Recommendations and Conclusions, in Chapter Five, synthesize the information derived from the entire action research project and construct meaning from it. Chapter Five completes the synthesis by providing a detailed Action Plan explaining how attendance problems can be resolved and student learning can be increased through improved educational leadership and administration practices.


CHAPTER TWO
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The following literature review covers recent publications that expound on; (a) the definition of truancy and (b) the difference between truancy and cutting class. It also discusses; (c) the history of attendance policies at Garey High School and (d) the problems associated with truancy. Later; (e) the consequences associated with non-attendance are discussed, and (f) the reported causes of truancy are analyzed, with (g) Government laws concerning attendance explained. Additionally; (h) the benefits of truancy programs are covered and i) some goals for attendance are suggested with (j) the cost factors involved. Finally; (k) recommendations from the California Department of Education concerning attendance strategies are presented at the end of the literature review. Resulting possible solutions that can be immediately applied to the Garey High School attendance issue are included in the summary.

Definition of Truancy
Although everyone has their own idea concerning the true definition of truancy, no universal definition for truancy exists, but it is often defined as a determined number of absences from school without a legitimate excuse. Webster’s Dictionary defines a truant as: one who stays away from business or any duty; especially, one who stays out of school without leave; an idler; a loiterer; a shirk (Webster, 1998, p.293). Truancy is generally considered a major risk factor for dropping out of school and for delinquent behavior, including substance abuse, gang involvement, and criminal activity; these often lead to more serious problems in adult life.

Cutting Class vs. Truancy
Many people have cut a class or stayed home from school unnecessarily at one time or another. Some may have done it once, and become riddled with guilt, then never did it again, and others have gone down another path and progressed from class cutting to truancy.
Although cutting class and truancy are not generally thought of as synonymous, researchers have found that about 40 percent of extreme truancy cases occur because of class cutting. They have also found that truants are often in and around school and that tardiness may also account for truancy. In general, then, two types of truants exist: those who cut or miss class and those who miss full days. Because of the cyclical nature of these absences, both types of truancy require early intervention (Roderick, Arney, Axelman, Dacosta, Steiger, Stone, 1997).

The Problem
Truancy is the first sign of trouble; the first indicator that a young person is giving up and losing his or her way. When young people start skipping school, they are telling their parents, school officials, and the community at large that they are in trouble and need our help if they are to keep moving forward in life.
Research data tells us that students who become truant and eventually drop out of school put themselves at a long-term disadvantage in becoming productive citizens. High school dropouts, for example, are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates. In 1995, high school dropouts were almost twice as likely to be unemployed as high school graduates. In addition, high school dropouts who are employed earn much lower salaries. Students who become truant and eventually drop out of high school too often set themselves u for a life of struggle (Manual to combat truancy, 1996).
The following are reported statistics concerning truancy: In New York City, about 150,000 out of 1,000,000 students are absent daily. Detroit's forty public school attendance officers investigated 66,440 truant complaints during the 1994-95 school year, and approximately 10% of Los Angeles Unified School District students are absent each day. Only half of these students return with written excuses (Ingersoll and LeBoeuf, 1997).
No national data on truancy rates exists, but many large cities report staggeringly high rates of truancy (Baker, Sigman, & Nugent, 2001); in general, larger schools have higher rates of truancy (Puzzanchera, Stahl, Finnegan, Tierney, & Snyder, 2003). The relationship between race and truancy is not well established, but the truancy data collected by the juvenile court system reveal that whites are underrepresented in petitioned truancy cases (Bell, Rosen, & Dynlacht, 1994). Students with the highest truancy rates are at higher risk of dropping out of school (Baker et al., 2001), and African Americans and Latinos consistently have the highest dropout rates (Kaufman, Alt, & Chapman, 2001). The relationship between income and truancy is also not well established, but it is generally believed that students from lower income families have higher rates of truancy (Bell et al., 1994). The number of truancy cases is evenly divided between boys and girls, and the peak age for petitioned truancy cases is fifteen (Puzzanchera et al., 2003).
For high school students, attendance problems begin early and worsen as the school year progresses; the transition to high school can be especially difficult. Schools that do not consistently challenge students, set and enforce high standards of behavior, and provide personal support encourage student disengagement (Roderick et al., 1997).
Low academic achievement and weak basic skills are other major reasons for truancy, but even the highest achieving students may be labeled truants because they cut class. Warning signs are often evident in the elementary school years (Roderick et al., 1997, Mogulescu & Segal, 2002).

Consequences of Non-Attendance
Student nonattendance not only affects the school, it affects the student, the family, and the community. Absenteeism is detrimental to students’ achievement, promotion, graduation, self-esteem, and employment potential. It is evident that students who miss school fall behind their peers in the classroom. This, in turn, leads to low self-esteem and increases the likelihood that at-risk students will drop out of school.
Although, truancy is not only associated with students of particular ethnicities, in a longitudinal study of African-American males, Robins and Ratcliff (1978) found that of those students who were often truant in elementary school and truant in high school, 75 percent failed to graduate. Failure to graduate, in turn, is associated with diminished earning potential in adulthood and other negative outcomes.

Causes of Truancy
Before trying to find solutions to truancy, the causes must be identified. There are many theories concerning why students decide not to attend school, and of course the actual reasons must vary greatly, since each student is an individual with his or her own reasons for their actions. Students may point to the curriculum or the teachers as the cause of their truancies and although many teachers may be empathetic and willing to help students, this difference in opinion may create a barrier of understanding between teacher and student.
In one survey, students cited boredom and loss of interest in school, irrelevant courses, suspensions, and bad relationships with teachers as the major factors in their decision to skip school. On the other hand, most of the school staff believed truancy to be related primarily to student problems with family and peers (ERIC/CEM and Linn-Benton Education Service District, 1992). Since the reasons that students stay away from school are diverse, the methods used by schools and communities to motivate their return range from school reorganization and intensive family counseling to legal and economic sanctions for families.
Thousands of students skip school each day in urban areas. Frequently, truancy is the first sign that a student is in trouble personally, at home, and at school (Manual to combat truancy, 1996).
Many reasons can explain why truants do not attend school:
•Family These include lack of guidance or parental supervision, drug or alcohol abuse, lack of awareness of attendance laws, and differing views about education.
•School These include factors such as school environment (school size, attitudes of teachers, students, and administrators), an inability to engage the diverse cultural and learning styles of minority students, inconsistent attendance policies, and lack of meaningful consequences.
•Economics These include employed students, single parent homes, a lack of affordable transportation and childcare, high mobility rates, and parents with multiple jobs (Baker et al., 2001).
•Student Factors include drug and alcohol abuse, misunderstanding or ignorance of attendance laws, physical and emotional ill-health, lack of incentive (Bell et al., 1994), lack of school engaged friends, and lack of proficiency in English (Rohrman, 1993).

Government Law That Supports Attendance Policies
In the December 2002 court appeal, Donald Harrahill et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. City of Monrovia, the trial court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of a city ordinance that prohibited children from being in public places other than school during school hours. (Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC170089, Irving S. Feffer, Judge.)
In 1994, the City adopted an ordinance that prohibits school-age children who are subject to the compulsory education laws from being in public places other than school between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on days when school is in session. Plaintiffs challenged the ordinance as unconstitutional on two grounds. First, they maintained that the City Council has no authority to legislate in the field of education, that field being delegated by the Legislature exclusively to local school districts. "If this Ordinance is an educational ordinance, then it is ultra vires and unconstitutional. Monrovia is a city and not a school board. School boards have the power to enact supplemental rules governing education, cities have no power to enact supplemental education ordinances." Second, plaintiffs also maintained that the ordinance cannot be upheld as a valid exercise of the police power, "because cities (excepting charter cities) only have power to enact police ordinances not in conflict with general laws. Education in general, and compulsory attendance in particular, are areas fully occupied by general law. Monrovia's ordinance duplicates much of California's compulsory attendance law and contradicts the rest. It is therefore preempted."
The Monrovia ordinance, as amended, reads: "Daytime Curfew. It is unlawful for any minor under the age of eighteen years, who is subject to compulsory education or to compulsory continuation education to loiter, idle, wander, or be in or upon the public streets, highways, roads, alleys, parks, playgrounds, or other public grounds, public places, public buildings, places of amusement and eating places, vacant lots or any unsupervised place during the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on days when school is in session.”
The city claimed that it’s primary goal was to reduce juvenile daytime crime, but the plaintiffs continued, “if the city's primary goal had really been to reduce juvenile daytime crime, it would logically seek to remove children from the streets when any were found violating the ordinance, but the city did no such thing. Children who were found on the streets were issued a citation and left on the streets. It is obvious that the harm to be prevented is unexcused absence from school, not vandalism or other juvenile crime. That makes this an education ordinance, and that makes it ultra vires." (Harrahill, 2002, p.4)
The Education Code provides no penalty for the first three times a minor is absent without excuse. Upon the fourth absence (which the statute defines as truant), a warning may be issued by any peace officer, which becomes a part of the student's permanent record (Educ. Code, §§ 48263, 48264.5, subd. (a)). Upon the fifth absence (second truancy), the student may be assigned to an after school or weekend study program (Educ. Code, § 48264.5, subd. (b)). Upon the sixth absence (third truancy), the minor is referred to the student attendance review board, or truancy mediation program (Educ. Code, § 48264.5, subd. (c)). And upon the seventh absence (fourth truancy), the student is subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, adjudged a habitual truant, and made a ward of the court (Educ. Code, § 48265.5, subd. (d)).
In contrast, under the Monrovia ordinance, a minor is subject to citation the first time he or she is found in violation of the Ordinance, and may be fined $127 or ordered to serve 27 hours of community service. The second infraction carries a $200 fine, while each subsequent citation is subject to a fine of $500.
From the foregoing facts, plaintiffs also argued: "Thus, under state law a student cannot be summoned into court until his seventh absence. Indeed, the California Supreme Court has said that use of the Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) is a condition precedent to the juvenile court in a truancy matter.” (Michael, 1988, p.2). But, in Monrovia, there is no requirement that the student be referred to a SARB before being taken to court for a violation of the ordinance. Under the ordinance, the student could be fined a total of $2,327 from his six previous trips to court before the 'condition precedent' has been satisfied for the first trip to the courthouse under state law.
The appellants' petition for review by the Supreme Court was denied March 19, 2003. An additional petition for review was also denied October 13, 2004. The Monrovia ordinance is still in effect.

Truancy Programs
Truancy prevention programs aim to increase students' attachment to school and help them overcome personal and family impediments to school attendance. To promote academic achievement and decrease students' discomfort in classes, schools provide educational supports, including tutoring and English language instruction. To motivate students, schools help them develop academic and life goals. Some schools assign teacher or student mentors to work closely with truants to encourage their attendance, help them solve problems, provide them with a sense of belonging and security in what may otherwise be perceived as an alienating environment, and even accompany them to school. Truants are also actively recruited for extracurricular activities, another way of increasing their engagement (Rohrman, 1993).
Some schools mandate course failure, suspension, or transfer to special programs after a certain number of unexcused absences (Rohrman, 1993). Some states refuse to grant a driver's license to a truant. Some states and cities have curfews during school hours that allow law enforcement officers to question youth to determine whether they should be in school, and report truants to the school (Manual, 1996).
One of the key features of truancy intervention is a collaborative, or multi modal, approach that involves some combination of community stakeholders: schools, juvenile courts, and law enforcement agencies, as well as parents, community organizations, and social services agencies (Baker et al., 2001). This approach takes into account the many risk factors that underlie truancy.

Goals for Attendance
The National Association of Secondary School Principals makes several recommendations concerning attendance policies that work:
•The policies should be strong. Schools that invest thought and effort into solving the problem make the most headway.
•Participation in the formulation of the attendance policies should be broadly based.
•Attendance expectations, as well as consequences of good and poor attendance, should be specified in writing.
•Policies should be well publicized.
•Policies should be consistently enforced at every level by teacher, counselor, and principal.
•Absences should be followed up by a telephone call or a letter from the school (Bartlett, 1978, p.10).
The learning environment is also important to student performance. Teachers must arrive on time, give students frequent praise, interact with the entire class (preferably asking open-ended questions), minimize verbal reprimands and other forms of punishment, and de-emphasize competition in the classroom (Rohrman, 1993).
The Osiris School Administration Program, a software package that allows administrators to maintain accurate, up-to-date, detailed information on each student, is being adopted nationally. The program contacts parents of absent students on a daily basis. After the fifth and ninth absence, warning phone calls and computer-generated messages are sent, totaling thirteen contacts to the families. The number of contacts made by the program may be altered to adhere to state or local attendance policies (Gullatt and Lemoine, 1997).
Schools should address the unique needs of each child and consider developing initiatives to combat the root causes of truancy, including tutoring programs, added security measures, dug prevention initiatives, mentorship efforts through community and religious groups, campaigns for involving parents in their children’s school attendance, and referrals to social service agencies.
Schools should also find new ways to engage their students in learning, including options such as career academies, school-to-work opportunities, and community service. They should enlist the support of local business and community leaders to determine the best way to prevent and reduce truancy. For example, business and community leaders may lend support by volunteering space to house temporary detention centers, establishing community service projects that lead to after school or weekend jobs, or developing software to track truants.
In general, schools with low truancy do not experience disruption or violence. Their teachers arrive on time, have low absentee rates, and are committed to remaining at the school. They give frequent praise, interact with the entire class, and use open-ended questions. They minimize corporal punishment, verbal reprimands, and competition (Rohrman, 1993).

Program Costs
The cost of truancy programs can vary, depending on whether or not schools decide to involve outside organizations, or decide to deal with the problem in-house. The following information concerning funding for supervision of attendance was taken from the California Education Code.

Education Code
The California Education Code establishes the law of the state respecting the subjects to which it relates, and its provisions and all proceedings under it are to be liberally construed, with a view to effect its objects and to promote justice.
The following codes in particular, relate to attendance:
Section 1740-1742
1740. The county superintendent of schools may, with the approval of the county board of education, employ personnel to supervise the attendance of pupils in elementary school districts, high school districts and in unified districts.
1741. The county superintendent of schools may, with the approval of the county board of education, provide for the supervision of the attendance of pupils in school districts under his jurisdiction other than specified in Section 1740.
1742. The services described in Sections 1740 and 1741 shall be performed by persons who hold a valid credential issued by the State Board of Education or Commission for Teacher Preparation and Licensing authorizing performance of the service (California Legislative Council, 2003).

Recommendations from the California Department of Education
The following practices have been identified by the California Department
of Education as having a positive effect in encouraging high school students to attend classes:
1.Clarify school standards related to attendance by making sure high school students understand that any unexcused absence of more than 30 minutes counts as an unexcused absence from school by state law.
2.Publicize the consequences of becoming classified as a truant and enforce them consistently.
3.Monitor student attendance and absence through a computerized attendance record-keeping system that keeps track of any unexcused absences that are more than 30 minutes.
4.Keep accurate attendance records that show who has been reported as a truant three or more times per school year and what efforts have been made to hold a conference with the parent or guardian and with the student.
5.Place responsibility for verification of excessive excused absences for illness on parents and students.
6.Telephone parents/guardians in the evening or at work to verify absences.
7.Use bilingual aides to contact parents with limited-English-speaking ability and send out school attendance notification letters in the language appropriate to the family.
8.Make home visits concerning student absences if parents/guardians cannot be reached by telephone.
9.Install a telephone recording unit to record absence excuses before school opens and to reduce the workload of the office staff in the morning.
10.Set up a telephone hotline in the school district attendance office that allows community residents to anonymously report apparent truants, include the hotline number on phone number stickers distributed to the community with police, fire, and other emergency numbers.
11.Refer students with frequent absences to a counselor, administrator, or school social worker to diagnose the problem and recommend solutions to alleviate the circumstances that are contributing to the truancy.
12.Post the names of perfect attendees in a highly visible place.
13.Hold a drawing for special prizes donated by local businesses. Use perfect attendance as the eligibility requirement for the drawing.
14.Send commendation letters to students and parents for perfect attendance and improved attendance.
15.Seek small or large financial incentives from the parent association to be awarded to the classroom with the best attendance record; allow teachers to spend financial rewards for any purpose selected by the class members or the teacher.
16.Initiate make-up classes conducted on one day of a weekend when a student is deemed a truant; use a "no-frill" room on campus and establish an after-school or weekend study program for students who fail to attend.
17.Refer students with persistent attendance problems to a Student Success Team (SST) or a School Attendance Review Team (SART), which should include teachers, administrators, counselors, and a school psychologist. Be sure that the parent/guardian and the student both attend the SST or SART meeting.
18.Initiate a "Cross-Age Helper" system in which older high school students with good attendance are permitted to assist younger students on a weekly basis.
19.Personalize relationships between children and attendance office personnel; ask office aides, clerks, and secretaries to make individual contact with "high-risk" students on a daily basis.
20.Develop an "Adoptee Program" in which teacher volunteers make weekly informal contacts with "high-risk" students.
21.Establish homeroom periods in secondary schools, with students remaining with the same homeroom teacher all four years; make homeroom teachers responsible for monitoring their students' attendance records and discussing truancy with parents/guardians.
22.Refer students and parents to outside agencies for counseling.
23.Emphasize the importance of school attendance to students with long-term, non-contagious diseases that tend to keep students at home.
24.Display attendance graphs in the faculty room to show attendance comparisons between current and past school years and publicize the loss of Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funds due to unexcused absences.
25.Provide schools a pro-rata share of the increased ADA funds generated by their attendance improvement efforts. (Kopperud, 2004)

Summary
The literature review in Chapter Two discusses the causes and effects of truancy, and discloses statistics that indicate a national problem with school attendance. A connection between poor attendance and low achievement is suggested. Chapter Three continues with this suggestion and further attempts to discover a connection between poor attendance and low achievement by tenth grade students, at a single high school in Pomona, California. The research continues with the collection and recording of data and also analysis of the data.

CHAPTER THREE
METHODS
The action research project used the tenth grade student population from the fall semester, 2002, at Garey High School in Pomona, California. All 193 students in the tenth grade that were flagged by their teachers for poor attendance were selected. Students from the tenth grade that had not been flagged for attendance problems, and all students from the ninth, eleventh and twelfth grades were excluded. The data were stored as computerized records at the school district office and were sent to Garey High School for the purpose of this action research, upon the request of assistant principal La Ronda Molles. All data were stored in a locked, secure location and will be destroyed after three years.
Garey High School, established in 1962, is located in the southwestern section of the suburb of Pomona, thirty miles due east of Los Angeles. It is the largest of four comprehensive high schools in the Pomona Valley Unified School District. Although the school opened a ninth grade extension school in 2001 to help ease the overcrowding, the enrollment continues to rise. There are almost 2400 students currently enrolled and the English Learner population has risen from approximately 1100 to over 1300 students during the past three years.
The English Learner population in the city of Pomona itself has also risen dramatically. “The 2000 census data showed an increase of 32% in the immigrant population since 1990 which compared with an increase of 4.9% in the native born population (which includes children born to immigrants) over the same period. That meant that the increase in the immigrant population accounted directly for 75% of the overall increase in the population of the city.” (Lamm & Anthony, 2002, p.2)
The student Gate population at Garey High School has also increased in the past three years from 112 to 140 students. There are currently 238 special education students on campus and 83% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

The student demographic information is as follows:
African-American106 students 4.6%
American-Indian2 students 0.1%
Asian-American172 students 7.5%
Filipino-American9 students 0.4%
Hispanic or Latino1954 students 84.8%
Pacific Islander4 students 0.2%
White 57 students 2.5%

The city of Pomona itself has a similar demographic makeup. According to the US Census Bureau and Synergos Technologies Inc (Ersys, 2002). Pomona’s population is presently made up of the following percentages of ethnicities;
African-American9.26%
Asian-American 7.04%
Hispanic or Latino64.47%
White16.96%
Other2.28%

The demographics of the tenth grade student population at Garey High School, during the Fall 2002 school semester was as follows;
African-American5.9%
American-Indian 0.1%
Asian-American 10.7%
Filipino-American0.4%
Hispanic or Latino80.4%
Pacific Islander0.1%
White2.4%

Pomona is generally considered a ‘low income’ area. At Garey High School 83% of the students in 2001/2002 qualified for free or reduced lunches, whereas the state average was 33% and the country average was 44% (Garey Senior High School, 2002).

Sources of Data
There are many definitions of action-research to be found in literature, perhaps one of the most useful is provided by Oberg & McCutcheon (1987) who define action-research as "any systematic inquiry, large or small, conducted by professionals and focusing on some aspects of their practice in order to find out more about it, and eventually to act in ways they see as better or more effective" (Oberg & McCutcheon, 1987, p.117). A similar description is as follows: “Action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions” (Sagor, 2000, p.3).
According to Sagor, three samples of data must be collected in order for the research to be valid. The three different types of data are as follows:
1.Existing Data (test scores/ performance report data, documents, memos, student work, etc.)
2.Observational Data (journals, video, photo, logs, checklists, rating scales, etc.)
3.Probes (surveys, interviews, focus groups, tests, etc.)
Grounded theory is a method that has been used extensively across a variety of social science disciplines. The basic tenet of this approach is that a theory must emerge from the data, or in other words, a theory must be grounded in data. Hence, the approach purports to be inductive rather than deductive. As defined by two of its major proponents (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), “the grounded theory approach is a qualitative research method that uses a systematic set of procedures to develop an inductively derived grounded theory about a phenomenon” (p. 24). The intent is to develop an account of a phenomenon that identifies the major constructs, or categories in grounded theory terms, their relationships, and the context and process, thus providing a theory of the phenomenon that is much more than a descriptive account (Becker, 1993). Grounded theory requires that theory is emergent from the data, but does not see these as separate. Data collection, analysis and theory formulation are regarded as reciprocally related, and the approach incorporates explicit procedures to guide this. Research questions are open and general rather than formed as specific hypotheses, and the emergent theory should account for a phenomenon which is relevant and problematic for those involved (Becker, 1993).
The sources of data that were used in this action research were: (a) grade point averages, (b) citizenship grades, (c) teacher reported absence data from the Fall 2002 year and (d) observations.
The choice to use existing data for action research rather than observational data or probes is valid, because the data must come from the Fall 2002 school year at Garey High School, in order to see trends concerning attendance and achievement for a full semester. Some of the data is anecdotal and therefore could come under the umbrella of observational data, however since the anecdotes are from the past, all three sources can be declared as existing data.
In designing this instrument, the considerations were that the instrument should reflect vital information that could be obtained from the past and that could also be obtained during each subsequent semester following the initial study. The records that were used in this research are readily available at the high school at the end of each academic year. The data was correlated and reflected upon and finally a recommendation for change has been made.
The “gatekeepers” that approved the dissemination of the instrumentation were Mr. Curtis Donaldson, the principal of Garey High School and Ms. La Ronda Molles, one of the Assistant Principals of Garey High School in charge of testing.
Essentially, action-research consists of a number of phases;
•Observing
•Reflecting on this observation
•Planning either a change of practice or a gathering of further data
•Acting (by making the change or gathering the data)
•Observing the effects of the change (or looking at the data)
•Reflecting on this observation (or analyzing the data)
•Planning a further change or data gathering process
•Acting to make the change or gather the data
•Observing the results
This process is known as the 'action-research spiral' and is often depicted in diagrammatic form.
The upward direction of the spiral indicates a continuous improvement of practice and an extension of personal and professional knowledge (Zuber-Skerrit, 1995). However, real life research projects "often do not fit neatly into cycle of planning, action, observation and reflection. It is perfectly legitimate to follow a somewhat disjointed process if circumstances dictate" (Kember & Kelly, 1993).

Procedures
The goal of this action research project was to find out whether or not poor attendance by the tenth grade students at Garey High School, during the Fall 2002 school semester, affected achievement. Action research was the type of research that was best suited to meet this goal. According to Carr & Kemmis (1986), In terms of solving problems in the world of education, however, there is one form of research that is pre-eminently suited to solving those problems where there "is some discrepancy between an educational practice and the expectations in terms of which the practice was undertaken" (Carr & Kemmis, 1986, p.110). This form of research is action-research.
Before starting this action research project, I passed the I.R.B. tutorial exam. (Appendix B) I also had my I.R.B. application approved prior to beginning the collection of data. (Appendix C)
The three sources of quantitative data that were collected for action research were; (a) grade point averages, (b) citizenship grades, and (c) teacher reported absence data from the Fall 2002 year at Garey High School in Pomona. All 194 students in the tenth grade that were flagged by their teachers for poor attendance, by an indicator code number 13 on their student records, were selected. Students from the tenth grade that had not been flagged for attendance problems, and all students from the ninth, eleventh and twelfth grades were excluded.
Using existing data for action research can be described as grounded theory. Grounded theory is a method that has been used extensively across a variety of social science disciplines. The basic tenet of this approach is that a theory must emerge from the data, or in other words, a theory must be grounded in the data. Hence, the approach purports to be inductive rather than deductive, as defined by two of its major proponents (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
The data was collected from computerized school records, with the permission of school administrators, and put onto an Excel spreadsheet. Then a Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient or Pearson r test was run to show the strength, direction, and the statistical significance of the variables. The coefficient of determination was also computed. Finally, the data were triangulated to arrive at a valid and reliable conclusion.

Data Analysis
Data related to attendance, grade point averages, and citizenship grades were collected from computerized school records and was then entered into an Excel spreadsheet program using frequencies and percentages. The resulting data has been reported in tables and the strength, direction and statistical significance of each variable was analyzed using a Pearson r test to see if there was a correlation. Correlation refers to the extent to which two variables are related across a group of subjects. Whether a correlation is established or not, a casual relationship between the variables can still not be established, because in order to do that, there must be a controlled experiment where different treatments are tried. In the case of this particular research, it cannot be estimated that students may have performed better in all areas if they had attended school more often, because there is no way for the students to repeat the exact same school semester again. The Pearson r test was however, able to show the strength, direction, and statistical significance of the correlation between the variables.

Summary
Action research that was approved by the I.R.B. board began with the collection of existing data from the 10th grade students at Garey High School during the Fall 2002 school semester. The data was analyzed for any correlations, using a Pearson r test and then triangulated and reported on tables ready for further interpretation and analysis. The findings of this research are divulged in the following chapter.

CHAPTER FOUR
FINDINGS
Chapter four begins with the history of attendance policies at Garey High School and continues with a description of the sources of data used for action research. Correlations found through analysis of the data are presented in the form of tables and scatter graphs and answers to the action research question are presented.

Attendance Policies at Garey High School
In researching the history of attendance policies in Pomona Unified School District, I found that the last policy existed in the1995/1996 school year. (Appendix A) Apparently, something happened where school employees challenged its validity and the policy was revoked. The policy stated that if a student were absent in any class for more than 20 days, he or she would receive an “F” grade and be removed from that class. The 20 days included absences cleared by a guardian note or telephone call and the only exceptions to this were absences due to school related activities, doctor or dentist appointments, (verified by a doctor’s note) or mandatory court appearances. In addition, the same thing would happen to a student if he or she had only 10 truancies, or a combination of 20 absences combined with truancies. An absence not cleared by a parent before three days after the return to school, was to be considered truancy. Leaving campus without permission was also considered truancy. Each time a student was late to class was considered half a truancy.
Standard phone calls home and letters to parents were to ensue after unexcused absences, and meetings between parents and counselors were to be arranged if necessary. If students were dropped from too many classes because of absences, they were to be placed in alternative education programs off campus.

Absence Data
The sources of quantitative absence data used for action research, related to attendance, grade point averages and citizenship grades. The data was compiled from computerized school records. A 0.05 level of significance was selected for use in this study.
All 194 tenth grade students at Garey High School, from the Fall 2002 school semester that had been flagged for attendance problems by one or more of their teachers were involved in this study. The information in the following table (Table 1) was entered into an Excel spreadsheet program. A student identification number was entered instead of a student name, for security purposes. Then, the number of times a student was absent during the first period of school was entered into the next column. The citizenship grade was assigned a number from 1-4. Unacceptable = 1. Needs improvement = 2. Satisfactory = 3. Outstanding = 4. Lastly, the G.P.A. was entered into the final column.

Table 1: Data
Student ID# 1st Period AbsencesCitizenship GradeGPA
921682 31 3 3.33
919919 28 3 3.00
911086 71 4 0.16
937347 49 3 2.33
920358 19 3 2.00
924897 34 3 2.00

Correlations
The data were entered into an Excel spreadsheet program using frequencies and percentages. The resulting data were analyzed through a Pearson r test to see if there is a correlation then, the coefficient of determination was also computed. Correlation refers to the extent to which two variables are related across a group of subjects. The Pearson r test and the coefficient of determination were able to show the strength, direction, and statistical significance of the correlation between the variables. (Table 2).


Table 2: Data Results

Variables Pearson r Coefficient of Determination(r2) Percentage that one
variable is dependant
on the other
Absences vs. Citizenship -0.25 0.50 50%
Absences vs. GPA -0.31 0.62 62%
GPA vs. Citizenship 0.24 0.057 6%


According to the results from the analysis, the answers to my action research question -- is there a correlation between attendance and achievement -- are presented below.
1. The ability to predict whether absences and G.P.A. are dependant on each other is 62% better than no ability to predict, indicating a moderate to strong relationship. The Pearson r test showed that there is an inverse or negative relationship between the two variables of absences and G.P.A., meaning that those students who have low numbers of absences tend to have a higher G.P.A.
2. The ability to predict whether absences and citizenship are dependant on each other is 50% better than no ability to predict, indicating a moderate relationship. The Pearson r test showed that there is a moderate inverse or negative relationship between the two variables of absences and citizenship, meaning that those students who have low numbers of absences tend to have better citizenship scores.
3. The effectiveness of the ability to predict whether G.P.A. and citizenship are dependant on each other is 6% better than no ability to predict, indicating a weak relationship. The Pearson r test showed that there is a very weak, yet positive relationship between the two variables of G.P.A. and citizenship, meaning that a relationship between high G.P.A. scores and high citizenship scores is inconclusive.
It should be noted that even though a correlation is established, a casual relationship still could not be established between the variables, because in order to do that, there must be a controlled experiment where different treatments are tried. In the case of this particular research, it cannot be estimated that students may have performed better in all areas if they had attended school more often, because there is no way for the students to repeat the exact same school semester again.
The analysis of this data can strongly support my theory as an action researcher that there is a correlation between attendance and achievement at Garey High School. The resulting information that I collected and analyzed may be applied to change at the high school, through a school wide action plan, or at the very least, will improve my practice as an educational leader. As other educational leaders learn of the resulting information, it might be construed that this information will lead to change on policy or impact practices.
The strongest relationship exists between the variable of attendance and the variable of G.P.A. The Pearson r test showed that there is an inverse or negative relationship between the two variables of absences and G.P.A., meaning that those students who have low numbers of absences tend to have a higher G.P.A. Since the coefficient of determination is at the .62 level, the effectiveness of the ability to predict whether absences and G.P.A. are dependant on each other is 62% better than 0% ability to predict, indicating a moderate to strong relationship.
This finding is consistent with other research studies that suggest that attendance is strongly related to achievement. (Roderick, 1997; Mogulescu & Segal, 2002).

Summary
A moderate to strong relationship exists between attendance and G.P.A., meaning that those students who have low numbers of absences tend to have a higher G.P.A. and vice versa. The Pearson r test showed that there is an inverse or negative relationship between the two variables of absences and G.P.A. The analysis of data can strongly support my theory as an action researcher that there is a correlation between attendance and achievement at Garey High School. The following chapter summarizes and interprets the findings, draws conclusions, and offers recommendations for an action plan. The proposed action plan contains timelines and resources that can be used.


CHAPTER FIVE
ACTION PLAN
(See next article)


© Copyright 2018 Christina Longstaffe. All rights reserved.

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