Should Schools be Penalized for High Absenteeism Rates?

An exasperating conversation about absenteeism took place recently, leaving both myself and the superintendent frustrated. The figures discussed were concerning; nearly half of our students missed at least ten days in the last year, and a third missed 40 days or more. This represents a doubling of absenteeism compared to five years ago, prompting the superintendent to advocate for changes in the state funding formula.

When asked about how the formula should change, the response highlighted the need to shift the focus from average daily attendance to district enrollment. The superintendent argued that the current funding model penalizes schools with lower attendance rates, emphasizing the point that costs remain the same regardless of student presence. The superintendent advocated for additional funds to support the students who are missing, a stance that drew skepticism.

Proposing a more equitable funding model that rewards districts with higher absentee rates, the superintendent defended the need for extra resources to serve marginalized students facing various challenges in their daily lives.

While acknowledging the complexities of student lives and community norms, the conversation underscored the tension between accountability for attendance and understanding the underlying reasons for truancy.

Photo of Rick Hess with text "Old School with Rick Hess"

The discussion on funding continued, with an emphasis on the complexities of supporting students in challenging circumstances. While advocating for a partnership approach centered on equity and inclusion, the superintendent’s perspective highlighted the dilemma of allocating funds to schools with low attendance rates and the perceived lack of control over student absenteeism.

As the conversation neared its end, the frustration was palpable, reflecting the divergent views on accountability, compassion, and the evolving notion of equity in education.

The exchange left me reflecting on the shifting perceptions of expectations and the complexities of addressing absenteeism in a compassionate yet effective manner.

Subscribe to Old School with Rick Hess

Get the latest from Rick, delivered straight to your inbox.



The impassioned discussion on absenteeism and school funding raised critical questions about accountability, student support, and the broader implications of funding policies. The superintendent’s call for a more equitable funding formula to address absenteeism challenges highlighted the need for a nuanced approach to balancing incentives and support for schools serving marginalized communities.

As the conversation concluded, the tensions between expectations, compassion, and equity in education remained unresolved, underscoring the complexity of addressing absenteeism while maintaining a focus on student well-being and academic success.

Frederick Hess is an executive editor of Education Next and the author of the blog “Old School with Rick Hess.”

The post Should Schools Be Rewarded for Absenteeism? appeared first on Education Next.

Other articles

Post Image
Ten Commandments Bill Progresses in Louisiana Legislature with Potential Legal Challenge

An introduced legislation to mandate the display of the Ten Commandments in all …

Read More
Post Image
MSU’s Department of Music to Hold Studio Events in April

Students are honing their skills for a brass performance. The Department of Musi …

Read More
Post Image
Teenagers are being developed as teachers

In the Career and Technical Education building at Fauquier High School, students …

Read More