Chronic absenteeism hurts the performance and development of all students, particularly in urban schools systems. One voiced concern is that students with disabilities (SWDs) have absence rates disproportionately higher than students from the general education population (GENs). But currently, as a nation, we have little empirical evidence regarding the SWD-GEN disparity in absenteeism, or what malleable school factors may be contributing to this. I address these gaps by focusing on two research questions. First, what are the disparities in chronic absence rates between students with and without disabilities in NYC’s traditional public schools? Second, does the size of any observed disparity differ based on type of IEP service received? Using longitudinal data from NYC to provide a rich descriptive analysis, I find that chronic absenteeism is considerably higher for SWDs than GENs in traditional schools, and there is important heterogeneity by disability. As for question two, SWDs who receive IEP services in GEN-majority classrooms are less likely to be chronically absent than SWDs whose services occur in SWD-majority classrooms, again with variation by disability. These findings can help policymakers, practitioners, and researchers focus their attention where gaps are greatest and where supports are most needed.
Michael Gottfried is an Associate Professor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California Santa Barbara. His research focuses school absenteeism, students with disabilities, and high school career and technical education coursework (with an interest in STEM). His work in these areas has been funded by federal agencies such as NSF and NIH, and by foundations such as Spencer, Stuart, and Arnold. Additionally, he has co-edited several books, including When School Policy Backfires (Harvard Education Press, 2016) and Addressing Absenteeism (Harvard Education Press, forthcoming). Finally, Michael’s work is very much grounded in developing research-policymaker partnerships. For instance, his attendance work has been rooted in a partnership with US Senator Kamala Harris. His disabilities research has been in partnership with the CA Director of Special Education Kristin Wright. Michael holds a PhD and MA in Applied Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.