Chronic Absenteeism in Virginia High Schools: Teachers' Perceptions of School Leaders' Influence on School Climate and the Resulting Influence on Student Attendance

Sheppard, Melody, Administration and Supervision - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Eddy Spicer, David, ED-EDLF Department, University of Virginia

Chronic absenteeism is a widespread issue in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the nation (U.S. Department of Education, 2019). Chronically absent students miss ten percent or more of the school year, which equates to a student missing nearly a month or more of school during the course of a year. Consequently, chronically absent students miss out on foundational learning opportunities, hindering their academic growth (Chang et al., 2018). Even though the causes of chronic absenteeism are not fully understood (U.S. Department of Education, 2019), school climate has been identified as a factor that influences student attendance (Henry & Huizinga, 2007; Sahin et al., 2016; Van Eck et al., 2017) and school leaders play an essential role in shaping school climate (Hollingworth et al., 2018; MacNeil et al., 2009). Researchers have suggested that the relationship between school climate and student attendance is well-suited for more in-depth analysis (Chang et al., 2018). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine school leaders’ influence on school climate and the subsequent influence on student attendance. Specifically, this capstone project focuses on the first three domains of the Ontario Leadership Framework: setting directions, building relationships and developing people, and developing the organization to support desired practices (Leithwood, 2012) in relation to high school student attendance. In addition, this study explored the influence of school leaders on school climate and the resulting influence on high school student attendance. Latent variable regression analysis was employed to understand the relationship between school leaders and school climate and the influence on student attendance. The findings from the study suggest that when school leaders develop the organization to support desired practices and influence a positive school climate, there is a slight reduction in student absenteeism.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
chronic absenteeism, high school, school climate, school leaders, student attendance
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