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  • Disparities Across Time: Exploring Absenteeism Patterns Between Cohorts of Students With Disabilities

Disparities Across Time: Exploring Absenteeism Patterns Between Cohorts of Students With Disabilities

  • 08/08/2021
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Background: it is of grave concern that kindergartners are missing more school than students in any other year of elementary school; therefore, documenting which students are absent and for how long is of upmost importance. Yet, doing so for students with disabilities (swds) has received little attention. This study addresses this gap by examining two cohorts of swds, separated by more than a decade, to document changes in attendance patterns. Research questions: first, for swds, has the number of school days missed or chronic absenteeism rates changed over time? Second, how are changes in the number of school days missed and chronic absenteeism rates related to changes in academic emphasis, presence of teacher aides, swd-specific teacher training, and preschool participation? Subjects: this study uses data from the early childhood longitudinal study (ecls), a nationally representative data set of children in kindergarten. We rely on both ecls data sets- the kindergarten classes of 1998-1999 and 2010-2011. Measures were identical in both data sets, making it feasible to compare children across the two cohorts. Given identical measures, we combined the data sets into a single data set with an indicator for being in the older cohort. Research design: this study examined two sets of outcomes: the first was number of days absent, and the second was likelihood of being chronically absent. These outcomes were regressed on a measure for being in the older cohort (our key measure for changes over time) and numerous control variables. The error term was clustered by classroom. Findings: we found that swds are absent more often now than they were a decade earlier, and this growth in absenteeism was larger than what students without disabilities experienced. Absenteeism among swds was higher for those enrolled in full-day kindergarten, although having attended center-based care mitigates this disparity over time. Implications are discussed. Conclusions: our study calls for additional attention and supports to combat the increasing rates of absenteeism for swds over time. Understanding contextual shifts and trends in rates of absenteeism for swds in kindergarten is pertinent to crafting effective interventions and research geared toward supporting the academic and social needs of these students. 2020 Teachers college, columbia university. All rights reserved.

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