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Researchers say in-home visits boost school attendance for chronically absent students

Employees of the State Department of Education, professors who issued reports related to the department's efforts, and educators from cities and towns in Connecticut gather for a photograph at Connecticut Education Department offices in Hartford.
Matt Dwyer
/
Connecticut Public
Employees of the state Department of Education, professors who issued reports related to the department's efforts, and educators from cities and towns in Connecticut gather for a photograph at Connecticut Education Department offices in Hartford.

Researchers from several colleges in Connecticut said Thursday that a state Department of Education trial program has increased student attendance by 15 percentage points in the schools where it was put in place.

They said the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program turned chronically absent students into regular attendees by supporting families struggling to get their children to school with in-home visits, versus punishments.

“That’s going from something where you are chronically absent or absent a lot from school to starting to show up on a regular basis equivalent to other students in these schools,” said UConn professor Eric Brunner.

But the attendance was still below pre-pandemic levels. And the program seemed less effective for students who mostly spoke languages other than English.

Katia Pazmino works for the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program doing home visits with absent children in Stamford. She described working with one child who was missing school after being diagnosed with leukemia.

“The diagnosis impacted the entire family unit,” Pazmino said. “Siblings were missing school, and his mother, a single mother, was missing work.”

However, the program can be expensive because it requires staff time to visit the homes of chronically absent students. The researchers say the in-person visits were worth it because they were more effective than phone calls or Zoom meetings.

State education officials are hoping that the analysis by the Center for Connecticut Education Research Collaboration will help maintain funding for the program when federal pandemic money runs out.

Matt Dwyer is a producer for Where We Live and a reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department.

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