Panel Paper: Reducing Student Absences at Scale By Targeting Parents’ Misbeliefs

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Harding - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Todd Rogers, Harvard University and Avi Feller, University of California, Berkeley

Student attendance is critical to educational success, and is increasingly the focus of educators, researchers, and policymakers. We report the first randomized experiment examining interventions targeting student absenteeism (N=28,080). Parents of high-risk, K-12 students received one of three personalized information treatments repeatedly throughout the school year. The most effective versions reduced chronic absenteeism by 10%, partly by correcting parents' biased beliefs about their students’ total absences. The intervention reduced student absences comparably across grade levels, and reduced absences among untreated cohabiting students in treated households. This intervention is easy to scale and is more than an order of magnitude more cost effective than current absence-reduction best practices. Educational interventions that inform and empower parents, like those reported here, can complement more intensive student-focused absenteeism interventions.