Tracking student tardies is an important part of addressing attendance rates holistically. Let’s consider a high school student whose classes are each 60 minutes long. If this student is, on average, 5 minutes tardy to school every day, they aren’t just missing 5 minutes of their first period. Once they arrive at school, they may have to sign in at the front office, still stop at their locker, and then head to their first period class. The student has now gone from being 5 minutes late to school to 10 minutes tardy to class. They are missing out on about 50 minutes of instructional time for their first period, or almost one whole class period each week.
The potential learning loss for a student experiencing chronic tardiness is not something to be ignored. And when “3.3% to 9.5% [of students are tardy] each day for all students in kindergarten through grade twelve,” it is clear this is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Targeting Student Tardiness
In order to effectively address student tardiness, a school needs good data. School systems have limited resources and time and our students do not have time to lose. So any proposed initiative or intervention to address student tardiness must be strategic and data-informed.
Data at a macro level can be a helpful starting point as one begins to address tardiness. How many students, on average, are tardy to school on a regular basis? At what time do most of the students who are tardy to school arrive?
Informal data sources could answer these questions and give us a general understanding of the degree of severity of tardiness. However, we would be no closer to understanding which students are occasionally tardy compared to those experiencing chronic tardiness. We wouldn’t be able to investigate if there are any noticeable trends in tardiness based on grade level or various times of the year. And we wouldn’t be able to center our students in our understanding of why they are tardy to know what supports they may need to reduce their tardiness. Micro-level data is necessary in order to meaningfully impact student tardiness to school.
Why Track Student Tardies
We need to be able to answer the questions: Who is tardy to school and at what frequency? When do they arrive to school? And why are they tardy?
Intentionally tracking student tardies to school will help us be able to answer those questions above meaningfully and explore any trends or nuances that could inform what interventions or supports could be most effective. Without this step, any action taken is at risk of being inefficient, ineffective, or ill-informed.
Once you have record of the tardies to school, you can then explore the data. Tracking tardies to school by day and time will allow you to group students by frequency and time of arrival to school. A student who is tardy to school once per week will have a different rationale compared to a student who is tardy 4-5 days per week. A student who arrives, on average, less than 10 minutes late to school may need different supports to arrive on time compared with a student who consistently arrives more than 45 minutes late to school.
The student experiences and root causes for their tardiness will differ. Therefore, the supports and interventions we provide must also be differentiated. Tracking student tardies to school empowers school teams to understand the trends in student tardiness that are unique to their school context and determine whole group and individual interventions best suited to address them.
From here, dedicated team members, whether they are counselors, social workers, advisors, or administrators, can set and track meaningful goals to reduce student tardiness. They can conference with students and parents/guardians with this data, making it more likely that all participants have a mutual understanding of the student’s attendance trends. This creates space for the conference to be focused on exploring root causes and possible solutions to improve student attendance on time to school.
Ideally, your system for tracking student tardies to school will help you to 1) create an instant log, or record, of a student’s tardy, 2) update student attendance records in real-time, ensuring the maintenance of accurate student attendance records across the school, 3) run reports that help you answer your attendance questions and progress monitor towards your attendance goals, and 4) help keep teachers, parents/guardians, and other relevant stakeholders informed. PureData’s Attendance Scan Plugin is designed to do all of this, and more, by integrating directly with your school’s PowerSchool SIS.
Regardless of your method for tracking student attendance and tardies to school, it is important to start somewhere. Our schools can best serve our students when they are at school. Knowing that there are a wide range of factors that influence student attendance, it is critical for educators to work towards improving and maintaining student attendance rates in ways that are strategic and most effectively help them target the resources they have available to them.
1. Chang, H. N., & Romero, M. (n.d.). (rep.). Present, Engaged and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades (p. 3). The National Center for Children in Poverty.
2. National Forum on Education Statistics. (2009). Every School Day Counts: The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Attendance Data (NFES 2009–804). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
3. Farrar, R. J. (2010). Too Late to Learn: Student Tardiness in the Middle School. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED515040.
4. Balu, R., & Ehrlich, S. B. (2018, June 8). What makes an attendance incentive program successful? Attendance Works. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.attendanceworks.org/what-makes-an-attendance-incentive-program-successful