Classmates Missing School: Linking Peers' Patterns of Absenteeism to Student Test Performance
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This study uses administrative data from a small, urban district in California to address the role of peer absenteeism on student achievement in elementary schools. For each year of data, the dataset contains records of daily absences for every student, student demographics, exam scores and the dates of examination, and teacher and classroom characteristics. Overall, the analytic sample includes 33 third grade classrooms, 34 fourth grade classrooms, and 33 fifth grade classrooms within 13 public elementary schools over three contiguous years consisting of N = 4,037 student observations in grades three through five in 2011-13. The dependent variables were state-administered standardized end-of-year exams for English language arts and mathematics. The key measures in this study were derived from daily logs of absences for students and peers. Other independent variables include student and classroom-level demographic characteristics. To supplement the baseline model, school fixed effects and a two-stage instrumental variable strategy are employed, where peer sick days from the previous school year serve as the instrumental variable. This IV was chosen given that peer absenteeism due to illness from the previous school year has no relationship to individual test performance the following school year. Additionally, peer rates of missing school due to unforeseen illness are likely to remain stable from year to year.
The findings from this study suggest that peer absenteeism negatively predicts individual student test performance throughout all models. When more rigorous models were used to control for unobserved heterogeneity and omitted variable bias, estimates grew in magnitude yet remained statistically predictive of test performance. This study highlights the importance of attendance on achievement through an OTL framework.