Reduced Absenteeism Results in Better School Performance

Reduced Absenteeism Results in Better School Performance

Megan Powell


By Megan Powell

Market Development Director, GOJO Industries

There are numerous studies that demonstrate the negative impact of student and teacher absenteeism on school performance.1,2 This blog post examines that relationship in depth and offers suggestions for schools to improve both their attendance rates and academic outcomes.

How Illness and Absenteeism Harm School Performance

Many factors are used to evaluate and rank schools - including test scores, graduation rates, and college acceptances. Schools’ images are also affected by various types of subjective assessments - including media reports, questionnaires used by rating services, and word of mouth in the community.

All of these elements are affected by how regularly students and teachers attend school. Frequent absences are associated with short- and long-term negative outcomes, including:

  • Lower grades and test scores
  • Leaving school without graduating
  • Higher rates of poverty and unemployment
These effects ripple out to the broader community, placing stress on parents and other stakeholders. For example, even the performance of the school’s sports teams may suffer when athletes are spending time at home sick instead of at practice or on the field.

Impact on Grades, Test Scores, and Graduation Rates

Illness is responsible for more than 144 million lost school days annually - resulting in lost learning opportunities that reduce student achievement.3 While illness is not the only cause of student absences, it is a critical and somewhat unpredictable factor. For example, at-risk students who are already bordering on truancy or failure can easily be pushed over the edge by two or three unexpected sick days. In many cases, schools have been reducing the number of absences considered acceptable, which increases the stress on students and parents.

In fact, a 2012 study in Utah found that students who were chronically absent during any year between eighth and twelfth grades were 7.4 times more likely to drop out of high school, compared to their peers.4

Also, research conducted by the Georgia Department of Education found that students’ attendance from sixth grade through ninth grade is a better predictor of whether they will drop out of school than test scores. Interestingly, the impact on student academic performance was found to be similar for both excused and unexcused absences.

The department also examined 2010 CRCT testing data to analyze the impact of attendance on standardized test performance. Results estimated that increasing student attendance by just 3% (or 5 instructional days on a traditional 180 school calendar) could have enabled 10,000 more students to pass the CRCT Reading test and over 30,000 more students to pass the CRCT Mathematics test.

Students Need Their Regular Teachers to Learn and Achieve

Even when students are in class, teacher absences can disrupt their academic progress. The class typically can’t move forward in the curriculum without their regular teacher, because even the most talented and passionate substitute simply will not to be as effective in managing the class and explaining the material. As a result, the kids miss a day of education. And when their teacher does return after missing class, the need to catch up can lead to crammed lessons and assignments—creating stress for everyone.

The PURELL Healthy Hands Campaign Is Proven to Reduce Absenteeism

A simple and easy way to make a large impact on absenteeism without a large financial investment is to implement a hand hygiene program that includes PURELL® Instant Hand Sanitizer to help reduce the spread of germs that can cause illness and keeps kids in school. Placing PURELLproducts in or near the classroom makes hand hygiene more accessible for students and teachers throughout the day. This is important because it is simply not practical for someone to go to the bathroom and wash their hands every time they either sneeze or cough or come in contact with someone who did.

More than 80% of illnesses are transmitted by touch.5,6 Accordingly, guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify hand hygiene as one of the most important ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. In addition, the CDC recommends that schools make an alcohol-based hand sanitizer available in areas where soap and water are not available.

The PURELL® Healthy Hands Campaign is a comprehensive hand hygiene program that includes GOJO™ Sanitary Sealed SANITARY SEALED soap, PURELL® Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer, PURELL® 2-in-1 Hand Sanitizing Wipes and hygiene-related educational materials for the classroom. With trusted hand hygiene products throughout the school and innovative lesson plans and activities, schools can make wellness an everyday lesson for their students.

There is ample scientific evidence of the efficacy of this type of program. In 2002, five independent elementary schools in Pennsylvania showed a 50% reduction in student absenteeism after adopting a hand hygiene program centered on PURELL products. Researchers calculated an average savings of $167 per student. The results of this study were scrutinized in an independent peer review and published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Another study conducted independently by the Columbus City Public Schools in 2007 found that student absenteeism was approximately 40% lower in three schools that received hand sanitizer and training, compared to three schools in a control group.

Whether a school is public, private or charter, having healthier students and teachers will help to improve attendance and academic performance - driving positive outcomes for the entire community.

Learn more about our industry-leading products, dispensers, programs, and total solutions by contacting us at maeducation@gojo.com or at http://gojo.com/en/Markets/K-12-Schools 

GOJO Blog Education

1. Johnston, 2000
2. Lamdin, 1996
3. Benson V and Marano MA. 1998. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics. Current Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey.
4. Chronic Absence in Utah, Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah, 2012
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Quick Reference Guide for Public Information on Infection Control.
6. 2013 Meta-analysis of germ transmission data by Dr. Gerba, University of Arizona.

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