Baltimore City Starts School Year Incentivizing Attendance

Baltimore City implemented an awards program to incentivize 2023-2024 school year attendance.

Baltimore City’s “Mayor’s Attendance Challenge” is an initiative to promote daily attendance in Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPSS). Each quarter, schools will compete for a trophy and certificate, and an end-of-year event will be held for the school that shows the most improvement for the year.

Through the Mayor’s Attendance Challenge, Mayor Scott is challenging every student to be on time every day and will seek to recognize schools making the most progress in improving attendance periodically throughout the year. In addition to a trophy and certificate awarded by the Mayor that the schools can display, Mayor Scott intends to hold a special event for schools that have achieved significant progress at the end of the school year.

A City press release reads:

Daily attendance and chronic absenteeism has been a challenge for schools across America since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Baltimore City Public Schools is no exception. Baltimore City Public Schools is showing significant improvement in this area, and, through this award, Mayor Scott aims to shine light on that progress while also calling on families and students to not be complacent in ensuring that students are in school, on-time, every day.

For the 2022-23 year, Booker T. Washington was the winning school with the most attendance improvement.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) reported that BCPSS had a dropout rate of 17.8% for the 2022-23 school year.

Attendance impacts proficiency and testing

It is no surprise that new data analysis suggests that absenteeism, especially chronic absenteeism, negatively impacts proficiency and student test scores. Research from last year’s NEAP scores found that low-income fourth-grade test-takers who self-reported missing three or more days the month before the test nearly doubled from 22 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2022. More affluent students had a similar near-doubling of missed school days from 15 percent to 29 percent in the same period.

The74 — an education policy and news site — reported on the correlation:

We know from state data that chronic absenteeism, frequently defined as missing 10% of the school year or roughly two days a month, has increased rapidly since the pandemic began, doubling in some states. And we know from research that students who are chronically absent are less likely to master reading by the end of third grade and more likely to drop out of high school.

Noteworthy, researchers found a correlation between missed days and lower NAEP scores:

Fourth graders who said they missed three or more days in the previous month scored 17 points lower on the reading test than those who missed no days and 12 to 13 points lower than those missing one or two days, regardless of poverty level. Given that researchers suggest that 10 to 12 points is roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of learning, those are substantial differences.

Similar results were accurate for 8th-grade students as well:

On the eighth-grade math test, low-income students who missed three or more days in the previous month scored 15 points lower than those with no absences and 10 points lower than those missing one or two days. For students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the gaps were 17 and 11 points, respectively.

Read the full report from The74.

Access the Baltimore City press release.