February 19, 2021

Wayne State University College of Education researchers report new findings about the relationship between attendance and reading and returning to school after COVID-19

DETROIT — Assistant Professor Sarah Winchell Lenhoff — a faculty member in educational leadership and policy studies in the Wayne State University College of Education and director of the Detroit Education Research Partnership — recently released two new reports with her team about student attendance and its impact on reading and implications for reopening schools after the pandemic.

The first report, "Third Grade Reading and Attendance in Detroit," examines the connection between early childhood absenteeism and third grade reading in Detroit as well as the potential impact of Michigan’s Third Grade Reading Law. Major findings include:

  • Being chronically absent is a stronger predictor of third grade reading achievement than demographics (e.g. race and income) in Detroit. 
  • Each year of being chronically absent in grades K-3 is associated with a 26% increase in the probability of being eligible for retention under the Third Grade Reading Law.
  • If the Third Grade Reading Law had been in effect in 2018-19, 14.5% of third graders in Detroit traditional public and charter schools (more than 1,000 students) would have been eligible for possible retention. Because the law was not in effect, only 229 students were retained, meaning that the law could more than quadruple the number of Detroit third graders retained.

The second report, “Why Do Detroit Students Miss School: Implications for Returning to School after COVID-19,” explores major barriers to school attendance from the perspectives of parents and students. Researchers discovered that:

  • Transportation was by far the most frequent and pervasive barrier to attendance, with parents describing the absence of school-provided transportation for most students, as well as a lack of reliable primary methods to get to school and a lack of backup options.
  • Health issues such chronic health conditions and mental health played a role in student absenteeism.
  • The report provides key implications for the return to school after the pandemic, as well as recommendations for what school, community and government leaders need to work on to reduce chronic absenteeism in Detroit.

Both reports are part of a series of studies on chronic absenteeism and student attendance conducted by the Detroit Education Research Partnership, a collaboration between the College of Education’s faculty and community organizations working to improve Detroit schools. Partners hope to identify the root causes of education problems in Detroit so that education leaders can generate solutions for improving public schools.

“These reports help crystallize the unjust conditions that Detroit families face in accessing education and demonstrate that failure to improve conditions for school attendance will continue to have devastating consequences for our students’ educational futures,” said Lenhoff. “We hope state and local policymakers, education leaders, advocates, and others will review our results and use them to address systemic barriers to school attendance and engagement, especially as students head back to school after the pandemic.”

To read both complete reports, visit education.wayne.edu/detroit-education-research-partnership.  

About the College of Education

Since its beginnings as a teacher's college in 1881, the College of Education has grown to offer award-winning, nationally recognized degree programs in 37 areas, including counseling, educational leadership and policy studies, educational psychology, exercise and sport science, learning design and technology, and sports administration. Through its theme, "The Effective Urban Educator: Reflective, Innovative and Committed to Diversity," the college reaffirms its mission and commitment to excellence, equity and social justice. For more information, visit education.wayne.edu.

 About Wayne State University 
Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 26,000 students. For more information, visit wayne.edu.


Tracy Boyce
Phone: 313-577-0260
Email: tracy.boyce@wayne.edu

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox twice a week

Related articles