Mathematics Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 7: School Contexts for Learning and Instruction

How Serious Are School Attendance Problems?

In some countries, schools are confronted with high rates of absenteeism, which can inuence instructional continuity and reduce the time for learning. In general, research has shown that greater truancy is related to less serious attitudes towards school and lower academic achievement. To examine this issue, TIMSS developed an index of good school and class attendance (SCA) based on schools’ responses to three questions about the seriousness of students’ absenteeism, arriving late at school, and skipping class. The high index level indicates that schools reported that all three types of behavior are not a problem. The low level indicates that two or more are a serious problem, or that two are minor problems and one a serious problem. The medium category includes all other combinations of responses.

The results of the index are presented in Exhibit 7.5. Sixty percent of students on average across all the TIMSS 1999 countries were in the medium category, where principals had judged their schools to have a moderate attendance problem. Exactly one-fifth of the students were in schools at the high level of the index, and another 19 percent were in schools at the low level. Although countries varied considerably, there was a modest positive relationship between good attendance and mathematics achievement on average across countries.

The results for the United States resemble the international averages, and also show a positive relationship between attendance and mathematics achievement. Across the Benchmarking entities, the situation varied considerably. Participants with the highest percentages of students in schools with good attendance included Naperville and the Academy School District, with more than 40 percent of the students in this category. Jurisdictions with less than 10 percent of students in this category included Pennsylvania, Jersey City, Oregon, the Delaware Science Coalition, and Rochester.

The information used to compute this index appears in Exhibit 7.6, together with data showing the percentages of students in schools where the behavior occurs at least weekly. Arriving late and absenteeism were more common in the United States than in the TIMSS 1999 countries generally, but were not usually considered to be serious problems. Among Benchmarking participants, Naperville had the fewest students in schools that reported attendance problems. In contrast, Rochester reported the most problems, with almost all students in schools where tardiness, absenteeism, and skipping class are frequent occurrences and sometimes constitute serious problems.


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TIMSS 1999 is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education