The Empty Desk Phenomenon



A student is suffering from a chronic absenteeism .

With the school year in full swing, chronic absenteeism is becoming a common problem in school districts across the nation, and the roll call, as well as the gradebook, are seeing a significant correlation and impact.

According to information from Attendance Works,  a national website and organization that specializes in reducing student absences,“by sixth grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.”

While the occasional sickness, family emergency and even a religious holiday are excused absences, absenteeism becomes chronic when school is missed an excessive amount of days regularly. Students miss out on daily learning opportunities and lessons only fully available to them in class. Even by missing one or a few days, there is inevitable catching up on the material that requires condensing important work to accommodate the time crunch.

Anne Walton, who teaches Honors Geometry and Accounting, said she views absenteeism as a major concern.

“Students who are chronically absent miss out on the consistency of the instruction that builds one day to the next. If there are holes in that construction, they are bound to have a shaky foundation,” Walton said.

Millions of American students will miss school today for invalid and unexcused reasons, as well as for recognized personal reasons such as sickness. Many missed school days cause major side effects to surface. Students slip far behind, slowly but surely, and the work they miss starts to pile up. They may grow overwhelmed trying to teach themselves missed material, or they may become blatantly underwhelmed, if they decide to give in and let their grades slip entirely.

According to studies by the National Journal, “Truant children are more likely to have lower earnings as adults and less career paths, meaning they are less likely to contribute meaningfully to the nation’s economy.”

Parents can also adjust family vacation dates and events to the holiday time to avoid back to back days of absence. When absences are necessary, work can be made ahead of time, and the student can focus on getting organized and getting to work immediately.

John Halligan, head of the Attendance at Woodbridge, witnesses the immediate impact on students daily.

“Students who miss class periods or classes in general, you look in the gradebook and you can see that their grades start suffering. The party line is, please, go to class! That’s always a good thing.” He says.