Citation
Student absenteeism

Material Information

Title:
Student absenteeism examining the impact of an online communication system on student attendance in high school
Creator:
Borzych, Susan Loraine
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xx, 210 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
School attendance ( lcsh )
School attendance ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 200-210).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
Susam Loraine Borzych.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
71778220 ( OCLC )
ocm71778220
Classification:
LD1193.E3 2005d B67 ( lcc )

Full Text
/
STUDENT ABSENTEEISM:
EXAMINING THE IMPACT OF AN ONLINE COMMUNICATION
SYSTEM ON STUDENT ATTENDANCE IN HIGH SCHOOL
by
Susan Loraine Borzych
B.A., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1996
M.A., University of Colorado, 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2005


2005 by Susan Loraine Borzych
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Susan Loraine Borzych
has been approved
by
Brent Wilson, Co-chair
Nancy Leech, Co-chair
Judith Duffield
'p/^/oO
Date


Borzych, Susan Loraine (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Student Absenteeism: Examining the Impact of an Online Communication
System on Student Attendance in High School
Thesis directed by Professors Brent Wilson and Nancy Leech
ABSTRACT
Student truancy in education is a complex issue, not likely solved by
a single strategy. This study examined the impact of an online student
information system in connection with grade, gender, grade-point-average,
ethnicity, and parental level-of-use on the variance in the number of
unexcused absences incurred by high school students.
Bound in time from August 2002 to June 2004, this longitudinal
study utilized quantitative attendance data from eight high schools and
5,451 students. Two multiple regression analyses were used to examine
the contribution of the regression model on student truancy using both a
full-sample data set and a trimmed-sample data set. Although the results of
both analyses are discussed, attention focused on the results using the
trimmed sample (limited to students who had at least one unexcused
absence and whose parents accessed the information system).
The results suggest that the combination of gender, grade, GPA,
parental level-of-use, ethnicity, and the number of previous unexcused
absences can predict 22 percent of the variance in the number of student
unexcused absences in the full sample and 41 percent of the variance in
the number of student unexcused absences in the trimmed sample. While
all variables contributed to the significant effect in the full sample, in the
trimmed sample, the number of unexcused absences during the previous
year had the most significant contribution, followed by GPA. Grade level
did not provide a significant contribution to the trimmed sample model.
Additionally, results also suggested a significant decrease in the mean
number of unexcused absences from the first year to the second year of
the study, with a significant interaction between school attended and the
mean number of unexcused absences during the two-year period (with all
but one school showing substantial declines).
IV


This study was broad in its conceptual nature, and designed to be
foundational in its approach so as to provide a base of knowledge to spur
additional research. Suggestions for future research are proposed that
would allow educators to more completely understand the multiple
variables involved in the complex issues surrounding online school-parent
communication and student truancy.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend this publication.
Signed
Brent Wilson
v


DEDICATION
This dissertation is dedicated to my family, who make a difference in my
life every day.
To my husband, Charles Borzych, who is my strength. Your support and
love kept me going and provided me with the endurance and determination
to pursue my dreams. You encouraged me to reach higher, and never let
me settle for mediocrity. You believed in me, and I certainly could not have
accomplished this without you. I love you.
To my children, Justin Borzych and Jacinda Borzych, who understood the
commitment that I made to post-graduate work. Your support, love and
willingness to tolerate the chaos is admirable and appreciated.
To my parents, Les and Loraine Jenkins, for your unconditional love and
never-ending assistance. To my mother and father-in law, Edward and Rita
Borzych, for supporting my determination. To Ginny Sirhall, Barb Medina,
Kathy Schlager, David Jenkins, and all of my in-laws for tolerating and
accepting the demands placed on my time, and to all of my other family
members and friends for supporting my desire to never quit and reach
beyond the norm.
vi


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
So many people deserve credit and thanks.
My sincere gratitude to Brent Wilson for your leadership. You brought me
into this program and made sure that I was successfulwhatever it took.
You were my advisor, my colleague, and my friend. Thank you.
My admiration and thanks to Judith Duffield. You provided me with an
important foundation for advanced learning, valuable experiences, and
sincere support as I moved along in the doctoral program. We shared
many experiences, enjoyed the adventures of conferences, and overcame
many challenges. I will value those times forever.
My appreciation and gratitude to Nancy Leech for tolerating me when I was
challenged in areas of learning. You set high expectations and never gave
up on me, and for that I am forever grateful. Your expertise and leadership
were invaluable thanks for sharing.
Many thanks is also extended to Jami Goetz who agreed to be part of this
project and provided unconditional support and understanding. To Geri
DiPalma who talked me into enrolling in post doctoral work, to Myka
Raymond who always lent a listening ear, and to the many colleagues
whose teamwork created a valuable learning environment encircled by
friendship and supportthank you!. Last, but not least, to Kathy Norton for
your support and empathy as I balanced the demands of full-time work,
education, and family.
To all of you who helped me experience my dreams and who
compassionately nurtured the spirit of inquiry, knowledge acquisition, and
collaboration inside of memany thanks!
Vll


CONTENTS
Figures .............................................xvii
Tables .............................................. xx
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION....................................... 1
Definitions..................................... 4
Student Achievement and Attendance:
The Connection.................................. 5
Student Achievement....................... 6
Student Attendance........................ 7
Parent Connections.............................. 9
Communication: The Challenges.................. 10
The Impact of Culture and Tradition............ 10
Environmental Paradigms.................. 11
Language Obstacles....................... 12
Other Barriers........................... 12
Conceptual Framework........................... 13
viii
Past and Present
19


Communication Tools of the Present..........20
A Scenario..................................20
The Study.........................................22
Purpose of Study........................... 23
Method......................................25
Student data..........................28
Parent data...........................28
Ethical Considerations......................29
Data Constraints............................29
Chapter Summary..................................30
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE............................ 32
Student Achievement and Attendance:
The Connection................................... 33
Student Achievement.........................34
Current legislation...................34
Constraints and implications..........36
Student Attendance......................... 36
Historical perspective................38
Current legislation.................. 39
IX


Domains of absenteeism
40
Constraints and implications..........41
Parental Involvement: The Other Connection..........43
Parent Involvement as Policy..................44
Historical perspective.................46
Student perspectives.................. 50
Constraints and Implications..................52
Economic influences................... 52
Cultural influences....................53
Educator barriers......................56
Communication: The Key............................. 57
Communication Theory......................... 58
Communication: A Model for Education..........61
Technology: A Tool..................................61
Educational Technology........................62
Administrative Technology.....................62
Performance and Possibilities.................64
Critical Perspectives.........................65
x


Constraints and implications..........67
Digital divide........................68
Summary ...........................................70
3. METHODOLOGY.......................................... 73
The Study ........................................ 73
Participants................................ 73
Variables....................................77
Data Collection..............................78
Student data..........................78
Parent data...........................79
Data constraints......................80
Research Design..............................80
Multiple Regression..........................81
Mixed ANOVA..................................83
Implementation and
Marketing Survey.............................83
Data Security..................................... 87
Human Subjects and Ethical
Considerations.....................................88
XI


4. PRESENTATION OF FINDINGS
89
Descriptive Statistics.............................. 90
School Populations........................... 91
Parent Participation......................... 94
Gender....................................... 96
Grade Level.................................. 96
Ethnicity.................................... 97
Grade Point Average (GPA)....................100
Unexcused Absences...........................103
Level-of-Use.................................107
Summary of Descriptives.............................108
Survey Information..................................110
Assumptions and Conditions..........................113
Multiple Regression Assumptions..............113
Related pairs..........................113
Independence of observations...........114
Normality..............................114
Linearity..............................117
xii


Homoscedasticity
119
Multiple Regression Conditions..............120
Level of measurement..................120
Correlation: Full sample..............122
Correlation: Trimmed sample...........125
Multicollinearity.....................128
Sample size...........................130
Outliers..............................131
Mixed ANOVA Assumptions.....................131
Level of measurement..................131
Random sampling.......................132
Independence of observations..........132
Normal distribution...................133
Homogeneity of variance...............134
Research Findings..................................134
Multiple Regression: Full Sample............134
Model summary: Full sample............135
Multiple Regression: Trimmed Sample.........139
Model summary: Trimmed sample........139
xiii


Mixed ANOVA for Trimmed Sample............143
Model summary: Mixed ANOVA.........144
Survey....................................149
Survey summary......................153
Summary of Results.............................154
Multiple Regression: Full Sample..........154
Multiple Regression: Trimmed Sample.......155
Mixed ANOVA...............................156
Survey....................................157
5. DISUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS.........................159
Discussion .....................................160
The Model.................................160
Parental level-of-use...............162
Grade-point-average (GPA)...........165
Ethnicity, gender, and grade........166
Unexcused Absences..................168
Attendance: Multiple Year Analysis........170
School Attended and Attendance............172
XIV


Survey
174
Discussion Summary..........................175
Limitations .......................................177
Violations of Assumptions/Conditions........178
Effect Size.................................178
Bell Schedules..............................179
Grade-Point-Average.........................179
Technology..................................180
Implications ......................................181
Suggestions for Future Research....................186
Correcting for Limitations..................186
Family Demographics, Culture and
Environment.................................187
Digital Divide-Technology Access............187
School Schedules............................188
Attendance and Transiency...................189
Student Motivation and Support..............190
School and Learning.........................190
Conclusion ........................................191
xv


APPENDIX
A. HUMAN SUBJECTS
University of Colorado at Denver............196
B. HUMAN SUBJECTS
Jefferson County Public Schools.............197
C. IMPLEMENTATION QUESTIONNAIRE
Jefferson County Public Schools.............198
BIBLIOGRAPHY...........................................200
xvi


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 A Model Depicting the Relationship Between Student
Attendance, Student Achievement, Parental Involvement
in Education and the Use of Technology as a
Communication Tool....................................... 16
1.2 A Model Depicting the Process of Transmitting an
Absence Notification in a Communication System and
Illustrating How Noise Can Interfere with the Entire
Process.................................................. 18
3.1 Student Sample Grade Level Representation................. 75
4.1 Ethnic Frequency Distribution of Full Sample for the
2003-2004 School Year.................................... 98
4.2 GPA Distribution Across Full Sample Data Set for
2003-2004 School Year................................... 102
4.3 GPA Distribution Across Trimmed Sample Data Set for
2003-2004 School Year................................... 103
4.4 Scatterplot of Residuals for Full-Sample Multiple
Regression Analysis for the 2003-2004 School Year..... 115
4.5 Scatterplot of Residuals for Trimmed-Sample Multiple
Regression Analysis for the 2003-2004 School Year..... 116
4.6 Scatterplot Matrix for Full Sample Independent and
Dependent Variables for the 2003-2004 School Year..... 118
4.7 Scatterplot Matrix for Trimmed Sample Independent and
Dependent Variables for the 2003-2004 School Year..... 119
4.8 Estimated Marginal Means for Unexcused Absences in
Trimmed Sample by School for 2002-2003 School Year (1)
And 2003-2004 School Year (2)........................... 148
xvii


4.9 Comparison of Composite Survey Scores and Percentage
of Parent Participation.............................. 151
5.1 A Model Depicting the Communication Process Between
Schools and Parents: A Framework for Addressing
Student Truancy............................................. 185
xviii


TABLES
Table
4.1 School Location and Population for Participating High
Schools in Full Sample Analysis for the 2003-2004
School Year............................................. 92
4.2 School Location and Population for Participating High
Schools in Trimmed Sample Analyses for the 2003-2004
School Year........................................ 93
4.3 Parent Participation Percentage by School in Full Sample
for the 2003-2004 School Year........................... 95
4.4 Ethnic Frequency Distribution of Students with Two
Groupings in Full Sample for the 2003-2004
School Year............................................. 99
4.5 Ethnic Frequency Distribution of Students with Two
Groupings in Trimmed Sample for the 2003-2004
School Year.............................................. 100
4.6 Unexcused Absences Mean, Standard Deviation and
Sample Size for Full Sample for 2002-2003 and
2003-2004 School Years................................... 105
4.7 Unexcused Absences Mean, Standard Deviation and
Sample Size for Trimmed Sample for 2002-2003
and 2003-2004 School Years............................... 106
4.8 Minimum, Maximum, Mean, and Standard Deviation for
Predictor and Dependent Variables for Full Sample....... 109
4.9 Minimum, Maximum, Mean, and Standard Deviation for
Predictor and Dependent Variables for Trimmed Sample.... 110
4.10 Survey Results for Marketing Medium Category by School.. 112
xix


4.11 Correlations and Inter-Correlations Among Dependent
and Independent Variables for Full Sample................ 124
4.12 Correlations and Inter-Correlations Among Dependent
and Independent Variables for Trimmed Sample............. 127
4.13 Multicollinearity Assessment for Full Sample Multiple
Regression for the 2003-2004 School Year.................. 129
4.14 Multicollinearity Assessment for Trimmed Sample Multiple
Regression for the 2003-2004 School Year.................. 130
4.15 Simultaneous Multiple Regression Analysis Summary
for Full Sample........................................... 138
4.16 Simultaneous Multiple Regression Analysis Summary
for Trimmed Sample........................................ 142
4.17 Mean Number of Unexcused Absences in Trimmed Sample
by School for the 2002-2003 School Year (1) and the
2003-2004 School Year (2)..................................147
4.18 School Survey Results by Participating School Including
Percentage of Parental Participation for the Full and
Trimmed Sample.............................................153
xx


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Every morning in every school, teachers take attendance. Although
a rote task, recent federal legislation requires that public schools provide
documentation for student attendance, adequate yearly achievement for
every student, and additional opportunities for parents to become involved
(United States Department of Education, 2001). These benchmarks are
used to rate school effectiveness and report on gains in student
achievement (United States Department of Education, 2001).
The connection between student attendance and student
achievement has been repeatedly documented (Berliner, 1990; Coleman,
1991; Davies, 1996; Dougherty, 1999; DuFour, 1983; Epstein etal., 2002;
Grayson & Martin, 2001; Hinz et al., 2003; McMillen, 2001b; Rodgers,
1980; Romer, 1993; Wheat, 1998). As a result, intense conversations
amongst educators transpire about the importance of student attendance
specifically at the high school level. Concurrently, discussions in the
academic community around involving parents in an effort to improve
student achievement are also frequent (National Parent Teacher
1


Association, 2001). This concern about student attendance, achievement,
and parental involvement is encircled by communication (National Parent
Teacher Association, 1997). Consequently, schools are beginning to
explore the possibility of using technology as a communication tool to
provide parents with information to assist them in becoming more informed
about student progress (International Society for Technology in Education,
2000; Warren, 2004).
This interest in employing an alternative form of communication in
schools is the result of a bottle-neck that has surfaced in the transmission
of information between schools and parents. Methods currently used to
provide parents with information have become less effectivemany times
outdated by new technology or financially unfeasible, due to budget
constraints (Gibson, 1987, Rogers, 1986). Old ways of communicating to
parents are no longer the most efficient, and information often times does
not end up in the hands of the person who can act upon it (Epstein, 1992).
Therefore, in order to promote parental support and assistance in reducing
student truancy, the delivery of timely, accurate information is necessary
(National Parent Teacher Association, 2001; Epstein, 1992).
With the development of the Internet and the rise of its popularity as
a tool for communication, its rapid growth and dynamic nature has
educators asking research questions that are still in the process of being
2


studied. Researchers are only beginning to gain insight into the strengths
and weaknesses of the Internet and its place in education (International
Society for Technology in Education, 2000). These challenges represent
the problems that commenced this research.
At the same time, student truancy in education is a complex social
issue. This longitudinal, empirical study was intended to create a
foundation for exploration in this area and utilized quantitative data to
examine high school student attendance data over a two-year period of
timespecifically absences that are unexcusedbefore and after the
implementation of an online student information system that provided real-
time attendance data to parents. The variance in the number of unexcused
student absences were examined to determine if a combination of six
predictor variables, including parental use of the system, would provide
significant predictability in the number of unexcused absences after the
implementation of an online student information and communication
system.
At this point in time, technology-enhanced student information and
communication systems have only recently been developed for use in
schools (NCS Pearson, 2002). Therefore, the use of technology as an
administrative tool to communicate with parents about student attendance
is a new concept and has not been fully evaluated (International Society for
3


Technology in Education, 2000; Warren, 2004). Consequently, this study
was not designed to be an in-depth analysis. Rather, it was designed to
begin the process of analyzing the effect of technology-enhanced
communication processes on student attendance, in connection with other
common student-related, demographic variables. For that reason, this
study will provide a foundation and direction for further research.
Definitions
In the research process, specific meanings may become aligned
with words that may infer different meanings in varied contexts. Therefore,
for the purpose of this dissertation, the word parent refers to any parent or
guardian who is legally responsible for the actions and behaviors of
children under the age of 18. This includes biological parents, adoptive
parents, step-parents, grandparents, or legally appointed guardians or
relatives.
The word absenteeism is used to describe all student absence
reasonsinclusive of excused absences, unexcused absences, school
activities, suspensions and any other coded absence reason for high
school students. On the other hand, for the purpose of this study, the word
truancy is restricted to include unexcused absences only.
4


Finally, unexcused absences are those that are not excused by
parents in the allotted amount of time (Jefferson County Public Schools,
2005), and are one major unit of measurement used by the Colorado
Department of Education to calculate student truancy (Colorado
Department of Education, 2005). Often times, these absences do not relate
to illness, family emergencies, medical appointments or tardies. These
absences represent the unit of measurement for this study.
Student Achievement and Attendance: The Connection
We know that students have an increased opportunity to learn if
they are consistently present at school (Eckstrom, Goertz, Pollack, & Rock,
1986; Raising school attendance, 2001; United States Department of
Education, 1994). We also know that student attendance is directly related
to student achievement (Coleman, 1991; Davies, 1996; DuFour, 1983;
DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Epstein et al., 2002; Hinz et al., 2003; Rodgers,
1980). Hence, in the ongoing effort to improve student performance in the
classroom, it is prudent to examine the effects of programs designed to
improve student attendance.
5


Student Achievement
In public education, recent educational reform measures have
suggested that teachers and principals' jobs and school reputations are
dependent upon students scores on high-stakes performance testing and
state standardized tests (National Association of Elementary School
Principals, 1998). As a result, researchers have examined how cultures
define academic success, the methods that show the most promise for
increasing student achievement, and what variables have the strongest
relationships to academic achievement. Amongst the discussions, one
common thread surfacesthe understanding that students need to be
present in class in order to learn (Martin, Mullis, Gonzales, Smith & Kelly,
1999; McMillen, 2001a). Students who do not attend school on a regular
basis miss the integral pieces they need to form the learning foundation
(Berliner, 1990; Davies, 1996; DuFour R. & Eaker R., 1998; Grayson &
Martin, 2001; Martin etal., 1999; McMillen, 2001b; Rodgers, 1980, Wheat,
1998).
To illustrate this concept, consider this example. We know that a
house is only as good as the quality of its foundation. It doesnt matter if
the frame, roof, and interior are of exceptional qualityif the foundation is
faulty, the house will eventually become unstable. Similarly, if academic
progress is the goal, exceptional instructional practices and the best school
6


buildings will be of limited value if students are not present as active
learners to form the foundation of their learning (Berliner, 1990; Davies,
1996; DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Additionally, the assessment and
measurement of student progress also necessitates that students be
present at school (DuFour & Eaker, 1998).
Student Attendance
As schools look to improve academic achievement, many
acknowledge that time-on-task in the classroom directly relates to student
learning and acknowledge the importance of student attendance (Hinz,
Kapp, & Snapp, 2003; Martin et al., 1999; McMillen, 2001 b). If a student is
late 10 minutes each day of school, he/she misses 1,800 minutes of
instructional time. That's 30 hours of lost learning time.1 Simply put,
students have an increased opportunity for success if they are present in
class (Hinz, Kapp, & Snapp, 2003; Martin et al., 1999; McMillen, 2001b).
Concurrently, declining student attendance rates can jeopardize
national, state, and local funding to a district or school (National
Association of Elementary School Principals, 1998). Even so, a recent
study conducted in the Texas public schools reports that 70 percent of the
1 The figure is calculated based on a school year consisting of 180 mandatory attendance
days per school year.
7


public school districts surveyed agree that attendance at school is a
primary concern for funding issues as well as student achievement
(Harrison et al., 2003). However, only 38 percent of these school districts
participate in programs to promote increased attendance at school
(Harrison, Lee-Bayha, & Sloat, 2003). Resistance to implement such
programs may be related to many factors. Perhaps the lack of information
regarding the effectiveness of these technology-based systems in relation
to their cost may result in a hesitance to allocate funds for this purpose
(Harrison et al., 2003; Warren, 2004). Studies in this area may help
schools make decisions about the adoption of new innovations.
At the same time, many districts have a population that is transient
and experience fluctuations in student enrollment and attendance that
make it difficult to predict revenue streams, plan budgets, and predict
staffing needs (Hinz et al., 2003). While transience and physical student
attendance is not always under the control of the school, we also know that
it is difficult to control how many times a student is sick during the year, or
predict family emergencies that might necessitate students missing school.
However, unexcused absences represent a different phenomenon within
the control of the student and parent(s), and one which can be prevented,
monitored, or controlled in some manner. Students incur unexcused
absences for ditching, leaving class early, or other forms of absences not
8


authorized by an adult (Jefferson County Public Schools, 2005). Parents
often times, are not aware of these unexcused absences. This study
examined student absenteeismspecifically unexcused absences at the
high school level.
Parent Connections
Although truancy and absenteeism continue to be a concern at all
levels of education, it is of particular concern at the high school level
when students experience increased responsibilities coupled with
additional freedoms, and decreasing parental supervision (DuFour &
Eaker, 1998). Parental involvement declines dramatically as students move
from the elementary grades through middle school and high school. As
children get older and seek greater independence, they often make it clear
that they do not want their parents involved in their schools. Without
encouragement from schools, often times parents are more than willing to
turn the responsibility over to schools (DuFour & Eaker, 1998).
The capacity of schools and districts to respond to the growing
complexities around high school truancy depends on collaboration between
school, parents, and communities (Deslandes Royer, & Turcotte, 1997;
Epstein, 1997; Fan, 2001; Hickman, 1999; Igo, 1997; Kelley-Laine, 1998;
Rosenthal & Sawyers, 1996). This collaboration can only occur through
9


communication channels that can be trusted to transfer judicious
information (Epstein, 1987; National Parent Teacher Association, 1997).
Communication: The Challenges
The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) (1997) has
established a framework for involving parents in education. Once again,
the number one standard in that framework is communicationjudicious
communication between the home and school. At the same time, it is
important to recognize that communication is most powerful when it is
timely (National Parent Teacher Association, 1997). Therefore, school
interventions involving effective communication targeted at informing
parents and raising levels of parental involvement will likely affect student
attendance and participation, which in turn affects their learning
achievement (Martin et al., 1999; McMillen, 2001b). Therefore, in an effort
to reduce student truancy, schools must work to develop and maintain
effective lines of communication between schools and parents.
The Impact of Culture and Tradition
Adding to the complexities of student truancy is the awareness of
cultural norms and how they affect the behaviors of students and parents in
10


an educational environment. Understanding cultural traditions, family
expectations, perceptions about the importance of education, and
language barriers constitute important variables that affect student
attendance at school (Valdes', 1996). To illustrate this further, studies
suggest that some parents view high school attendance as an activity of
convenience. Attendance at school may not be as important as other
activities, such as family or work (Harrison et al., 2003). To engage parents
as stakeholders in reducing unnecessary student absences from the
classroom, schools must create multiple opportunities for involvement and
encourage parents to take an active role in their childs educational
process (Epstein et al., 2002). Barriers to involvement must be recognized
and eliminated so that parents feel comfortable and willing to be involved
as part of a team for the benefit of their children (Valdes', 1996).
Environmental Paradigms
At the same time, parents have varying lifestyles that dictate when
and how they provide support to their children in the academic
environment. Family responsibilities, economic necessity, religious beliefs,
and environmental conditions, in addition to cultural norms, dictate when,
where, and how families and communities become involved and informed
about student attendance (Valdes', 1996). Environmental barriers occur
11


when conflicts occur between these paradigms and create situations
necessitating that parents make decisions based upon their personal
priorities.
Language Obstacles
However, even with effective and participatory communication,
parents may find it difficult to verbalize high expectations for attendance
(McLoyd, 1990). Parents whose first language is not English may desire to
be involved, but cannot communicate well enough to engage in
conversation with teachers or make a telephone call to the school principal.
They may feel uneasy about visiting the school for fear of being
misunderstood in verbal conversation or finding themselves in a position
that is uncomfortable or inconsistent with their traditions or cultural norms
(Valdes, 1996). Unless school communication is made available in a
language that they understandor translation is made available, parents
may feel isolated from their childs school.
Other Barriers
Additionally, parents may resist becoming involved because they
have unpleasant memories of previous school experiences and are
12


reluctant to revisit those memories. A stroll through a school hallway may
bring back memories of unpleasant experiences. Additionally, some
parents may find it difficult to arrange transportation to and from work,
home and school. Many other parents simply struggle to find the time and
energy to become involvedparticularly if involvement constitutes
additional requirements for a physical presence within the school building
(Epstein et al., 2002; Valdes, 1996).
Despite the many challenges schools face when trying to
communicate with parents and families and initiate involvement, continued
effort is necessary to ensure that parents feel comfortable with the quantity
and quality of information that they receive from schools (Epstein et al.,
2002; National Parent Teacher Association, 1997). Providing opportunities
for parents that eliminate the necessity for a physical presence in the
school building encourages support from parents, who otherwise might be
bystanders and remain uninterested or uninvolved (Epstein et al., 2002).
Conceptual Framework
One of the problems related to student truancy parallels
communication between schools and parentsor in many cases, the lack
of communication. To help understand this process, this study is designed
around the framework of communication theory. Communication theory, in
13


its entirety, is a broad concept that incorporates multiple subtopics and
specialty theories related to specific applications (Griffin, 1994). For the
purpose of this study, a conceptual model is used that builds upon the
concepts of both the Maletzke Model of Mass Media (McQuail & Windahl,
1981), and Berios SMCR (source, message, channel, receiver) Model
(Griffin, 1994). The model has been enhanced by integrating the Lasswell
Formula and the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication (Griffin,
1994). In simplistic terms, these models suggest that in order for an effect
or outcome to be expected or realized, the message must travel from the
sender to the receiver in its entirety, without distortion. Anything that
interrupts this flow of information could impede the expected outcome.
The Maletzke Model, developed in 1963, emphasized four
components to communicationthe communicator, the message, the
medium, and the response (McQuail & Windahl, 1981). Building on that
model, Berios SMCR Model re-defines the benchmarks as source,
message, channel, and receiver. He also includes the five senses as
participatory agents in the channel process (McQuail & Windahl, 1981).
More recently, the Lasswell Formula (Griffin, 1994) also a
transmission model of communication, suggests five separate components
of communication represented in a scientific approachthe communicator,
the message, the channel, the receiver, and the effect. In addition, the
14


Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication suggests the addition of noise
as a construct throughout the communication process (Griffin, 1994;
McQuail & Windahl, 1981).
Figure 1.1 represents a conceptual model of communication
developed as a combination of the above four modelsapplicable to the
type of attendance information generation at the high school level. This
model illustrates how the delivery of information and the flow of
communication between schools and parents are related to student
attendance, and ultimately student achievement. Currently, this distribution
of information is intended to be informative, and therefore, this one-way
model of delivery is appropriate as a prototype for examination in this
study. The existence of family and student variables was acknowledged,
and these variables were not integrated directly into the process because
we did not yet know their precise ways of interacting with the system.
15


Figure 1.1
A Model Depicting the Relationship Between Student Attendance,
Student Achievement, Parental Involvement in Education
and the Use of Technology as a Communication Tool
Schools are mandated to
increase student achievement
and show adequate yearly
progress for every student.

One way to improve student
achievement is to reduce
student truancy.
>
r
c
a)
E
a>
>
o
>
c
*->
c
at
i
rc
CL
Addressing the issues of student attendance
necessitates that parents be involved in the
process.
T
Parents need accurate information about
student absenteeism.
W
Ft
c
a
rit
3
>
3
nt
3
a
£1)
3
r>
fD
J
<
INFORMATION SOURCE: Communication road blocks
currently exist in the way in which attendance information
is transferred from schools to parents.

TRANSMITTER: New web-based technology provides
parents with the opportunity to close communication road
blocks through access of real-time student attendance
information.
RECEIVER: Parents are able to access information via
the Internet. This makes involvement easier, less
intrusive, and more convenient.
o
S'
3
O
O
>1
DESTINATION: Parents are able act upon information
and create interventions, if necessary
V.
EFFECT: Student awareness of parental
involvement or initiated consequences helps to
deter the behaviors that contribute to negative
attendance at school.
OUTCOME: Student truancy
declines, and the possibility of
academic growth is enhanced.
>
>
m W
CO
££
6) fD
S*
rp
16
Communication Theory


Figure 1.2 magnifies the highlighted sections of Figure 1.1, focusing
specifically on the communication process. This model is based upon the
works of Maletzkes Model of Mass Media, The Shannon-Weaver Model of
Communication, and The Lasswell Formula for Transmission Models of
Communication (Griffin, 1994; Underwood, 2003). It illustrates how noise
can become a deterrent at every level of the transmission process, and
illustrates further how noise can interrupt the flow of information at any
stage of the communication process. Noise, as it relates to this model, can
represent anything from intercepted phone calls to financial restrictions on
previous communication methods. Something as simple as a breaking
news story on television or a second incoming telephone call during a
phone message about student attendance can be considered noise.
Environmental noise, such as messages that are unclear, the inability of
the receiver to accurately decipher the intended message that was
delivered, or a second child talking in the background during message
delivery, can also be classified as noise.
17


Figure 1.2
A Model Depicting the Process of Transmitting an Absence
Notification in a Communication System and Illustrating How Noise
Can Interfere with the Entire Process
INFORMATION SOURCE: The school sends a notification to parents
regarding an unexcused absence(s)ditching class.
^ Noise: Information Is incorrect Secretary is
Message absent Teacher forgets to take attendance.
TRANSMITTER: The notification is sent via an automated phone message
system or a written note sent home with the student.
Noise: Phone message is intercepted. ^
wrtten notifkatbn notgbren to parents. Signal Sent & Signal Received
______________________________________I_______________/
RECEIVER: The intended receiver(s) of the information are parents of the
student who ditched class.
I
Message
1.
Noise: Notification is a month oki upon
receipt.
DESTINATION: Parents of the student receive the notification.
Noise: Parents never receded notification-
unaware that action is necessary.
I
Action Taken
EFFECT: Parents are disappointed with their students choice to ditch
class. They employ a consequence. Student can't go to the movies with
friends.
I
Expected Outcome
Noise: No consequence for unexcused
absencefs)
OUTCOME:: Student decides that the possibility of being grounded was
worse than ditching class. Decides not to ditch. Opportunity for academic
growth is enhanced.
= Noise
18
Communication Theory


Past and Present
Communication systems that are currently in place and have been
used in the past to inform parents about student attendance have become
outdated and limited in effectiveness as a means of transferring information
from schools to parent in a reliable medium (Pemberton, Rademacher,
Tyler-Wood, & Perez-Cerejo, 2002; Warren, 2004). These systems have
encountered a large amount of noise that interferes with the flow of
information from the source to the receiver.
For example, information printed on paper is not timely and has
become expensive. Personal phone calls are timely and precise, but are
time-consuming and expensive. Automated phone-dialer systems are
timely and precise in their content delivery and less expensive to operate,
but their effectiveness has been sacrificed with the onset of new
technology, such as call-waiting and caller identification (Pemberton, et al.,
2002). Students are able to intercept all of these antiquated forms of
communicationcreating an uncertainty about accurate delivery to
stakeholders. Therefore, information often times does not get in the hands
of the person who has the power to act upon it (Epstein, 1992; National
Parent Teacher Association, 1997). As a result, the expected effect and
anticipated outcome become uncertain.
19


Communication Tools of the Present
With the aid of modern technology, new systems are being
developed that provide information to parents concerning student
achievement, including attendance (Levin, 2002; Warren, 2004). These
systems use the Internet and e-mail to communicate with parents and the
community (NCS Systems, 2002; Edulink Systems, 2002). This form of
communication is less expensive, precise in delivery to stakeholders,
timely, and encourages parents to become informed by eliminating
physical presence as a requirement to obtain information (Dexter, 2002;
eSchool, 2003). Improved communication processes can potentially impact
student absenteeism by changing the way in which we communicate
student attendance information to parents, thereby encouraging additional
ways of informing and involving parents in an effort to reduce student
truancy (Epstein, 1992).
A Scenario
Using the communication model in Figure 1.2, imagine that your
tenth-grade, high school student decided to skip third hour yesterday
because they were not prepared for a test. It is unlikely that your student
would bring home a notice informing you of their absence, even if it was
20


given to them. Thus, noise is created immediately between the information
source and the transmitter.
Mail is expensive and slow. Personal telephone calls are not
feasible on a daily basis, and often times dont reach the stakeholder, if a
contact attempt is made. Messages left on an answering machine can be
intercepted and erased. The automated phone dialer delivers a message to
youhowever, your student can probably anticipate, with fair accuracy, the
time of the phone call and intercept it without you being aware. This noise
manifests itself between the transmitter and the receiver. It is uncertain that
you, a concerned parent, will receive this information in a timely manner, if
at all. If the receiver of information never receives the information, it is
unlikely that an effect occurs (Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Griffin, 1994).
In contrast, however, if an e-mail were sent to your personal e-mail
account, or attendance information was made available at any time on the
Internet, there is an increased probability that you, as a parent, would have
access to this timely piece of information, assuming you have access to the
Internet. Noise between the source, transmitter, and the receiver could be
eliminated or substantially reducedcreating a greater probability that you
(the receiver) will get the message. As a result, the possibility increases
that an effect will occurfollowed by an outcome.
21


It is understood that a single unexcused absence probably has little
effect on overall student truancy rates in a high school. However, consider
the consistency of patterns. If a student experienced no consequence for
ditching one class because information from the school never reached the
parent, the student might believe that ditching two, three, four or more
times would yield the same effect. Habits develop rather quickly and are
difficult to control unless early intervention occurs. If a parent has access to
timely and accurate information about attendance, there is an increased
probability that they may act upon it in ways deemed necessary to correct
negative attendance behaviors before they are allowed to snowball
(Davenport & Prusak, 1998). At the same time, lack of accurate information
decreases the probability that corrective action can occur (Davenport &
Prusak, 1998; Raising school attendance, 2001).
The Study
We know that communication is a critical component necessary to
ensure parental support and involvement (Levin, 2002; Warren, 2004).
Therefore, it is reasonable to assert that communication interventions
targeted at raising levels of parental involvement will affect student
attendance and participation, which in turn will affect student learning and
achievement.
22


Technology has a proven track record in assisting with
communication and providing information to end users (Davenport &
Prusak, 1998). Unfortunately, there is not a large body of research
incorporating the use of technology as a means of communicating
attendance behaviors to parents (Stanton, 2001; Warren, 2004; Wheat,
1998). However, research has been done in the area of parental
involvement, and this research suggests the need for effective
communication between key stakeholders (Davies, 2000; Epstein et al.,
2002). Only recently, with the onset of improved technology, has the idea
of implementing online communication software surfaced as a tool for
parents and schools to increase effective communication and as a tool to
help reduce student truancy (Edulink Systems, 2002, NCS Systems, 2002;
Warren, 2004). The scarcity of information about the impact that
technology has as an interactive communication tool for this purpose is
regrettable, but understandable, due to its newness.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether parental use of
a web-based student information system, in connection with other student
demographic variables, is able to predict the variance in the number of
unexcused absences among high school students. Guided by the
23


constructs of communication theory, and the model of communication as
illustrated in Figure 1.1 and Figure 1.2, this study explored these questions:
1. How does parental use or non-use of a web-based student
information system, in combination with gender, grade level,
grade-point average (GPA), ethnicity, and the number of
unexcused absences during the previous year predict the
variance in the number of unexcused absences incurred by high
school students?
2. Among students with at least one unexcused absence whose
parents used the student information system, is there a
difference in the total number of unexcused absences between
the 2002-2003 school year and the 2003-2004 school year?
3. What were the reported levels of software implementation and
marketing strategies for each school?
It was expected that after one year of full implementation on a web-
based student information and communication system, the number of
unexcused absences for high school students would show a significant
decrease.
24


Method
This study examined parental use of an online communication
system and student attendance, in combination with several other student
variables. Predictor variables in this study included the number of
unexcused absences from the baseline 2002-2003 school year (before the
implementation of an online student information and communication
system), grade level, gender, student grade-point-average, parental level-
of-use and student ethnicity. The dependent variable was the number of
student unexcused absences for the 2003-2004 school yearthe first year
of implementation of the online student information system.
Additionally, this study also examined the difference in the mean
number of unexcused absences between the 2002-2003 school year and
the 2003-2004 school year. School attended was included as a factor to
determine if it had a significant interaction effect with unexcused absences
over a two-year period of time.
The sample for this study contained ten high schools located in the
Denver metropolitan area. These high schools had varied geographical
locations. Some schools were located in rural mountain areas, others were
located in suburban locations, and the remaining schools were older, inner-
city schools in very populated, mature areas of the county. Each school
was different in size and student population.
25


The SASI Student Information System (NCS Pearson, 2002) is the
software that was implemented during the course of this study. This web-
based system allows student attendance to be posted onlinein real-
timefor parents to view. All parents had the opportunity to register with
the software program and received a user identification number and a
password. Access to a computer was not necessary to receive a user
identification number and password, as parents could pick them up at the
school site. However, access to a computer was required to view student
attendance information online Additionally, parents who maintained an
active e-mail address with the school also received an e-mail notification if
their student incurred any unexcused absences. Information about all types
of absences and tardies were made available to parents. However, this
study specifically focused on unexcused absences.
Two simultaneous multiple regression analyses were used to test
the predictive ability of this set of independent variables (gender, grade
level, ethnicity, GPA, previous unexcused absences for the prior year, and
level-of-use) on a single dependent variablethe number of unexcused
absences during the second year of this study. A full sample regression
was performed, using the entire sample obtained from the eight
participating schools (two schools data was eliminated prior to running the
26


analyses). A second trimmed sample regression was performed with a
smaller sub-sample of the full sample.
The multiple regression would be the appropriate measure to use for
this analysis because there are two or more independent variables, there is
a control condition, and each participant contributes to scores from the
baseline attendance data as well as to the score of the current attendance
data (Creswell, 2003). Each students attendance score is measured
twiceonce at the end of the first baseline year and again at the end of the
second year. The conditions of sample size, multicollinearity, level of
measurement, and correlations were examined. Violations were discovered
and documented. In addition, the required assumptions of normality,
linearity, related pairs, homoscedasticity, and independent observations
were tested and analyzed.
Secondly, using the trimmed sample, a mixed Analysis of Variance
(ANOVA) was run to examine differences in the number of unexcused
absences between the first and second years, and the impact that school
attended had on unexcused absences. The assumptions of independence
of observations, normality and homogeneity of variances, and sphericity
were examined. Violations were discovered and noted.
Finally, a survey was incorporated in this study to examine the
reported levels of software implementation and marketing strategies for
27


each school. Personnel at each school, who were involved in the
implementation of the software system, were contacted and responded to
specific questions related to marketing strategies of each individual school
(Appendix C).
Student data. Student data collected from each of the ten high
schools included information on the number of unexcused absences for
students in the 9th and 10th grades for the 2002-2003 school year, and the
number of unexcused absences for students for the same group of
students for the 2003-2004 school year. Information on grade level,
cumulative grade-point-average (GPA), gender, and ethnicity were also
collected for each student.
Parent data. Information collected on parents included the number
of times the attendance module of an on-line student information and
communication system was accessed in a given school year (2003-2004).
For the purpose of this study, this data is referred to as parental level-of-
use. Access may be from any parent or guardian using the specified
passwords that are student-specific and assigned to the parent and
guardian by the participating school. Parents who had no access record
(no logons) were documented with a zero.
28


Ethical Considerations
All ethical standards as outlined in APA Fifth Edition were adhered
to in the process of collecting all data. Additionally, all human subjects
requirements as outlined by the University of Colorado at Denver and
Health Sciences Center (Appendix A) and the participating school district
(Appendix B) were met. Authorization to conduct this study was granted.
Data Constraints
We know that data are only as good as the source from which it is
retrieved. The data used in this study represent information that was within
the control of each individual school. Ethical guidelines for reporting
student data were in place and mandated by the participating district. It is
believed that data input into the student information system in this district
was complete and accurate. However, human error remained a constraint
in this study. Additionally, district guidelines prohibited obtaining
information on socio-economic-status (SES) for individual students.
Therefore, it was impossible to use student SES as an independent
(predictor) variable in this study.
At the same time, communication to parents of the community about
the availability of the online student information system had been
29


implemented at the district level on a small scale. The marketing of this tool
at each individual high school was the responsibility of the principal and
administrative staff. It was possible that some schools had done a thorough
job of marketing this tool, while other high schools minimally advertised the
availability of this system. Word of mouth conversations amongst
employees and parents who used the system were evident in each
community, and this type of communication accomplished the task of
informing. However, parent participation in the use of this system cannot
be determined to be equally distributed throughout the entire district.
Finally, the researcher acknowledged the existence of the digital
dividethe reality that all parents do not have access to the Internet.
However, as the Internet becomes a widely accepted medium for the
exchange of information, it is imperative that we be mindful implementing
resources that assume Internet connectivity amongst all stakeholders
(Anderson & Smith, 1999).
Chapter Summary
Poston, Stone, and Muther (1992), note that of all the findings from
education research on how to increase pupil achievement, the most
powerful concern is time. Time is transient. Once a moment has passed, it
30


is forever lost. Students and teachers cannot reclaim minutes lost to
absence, lateness and distraction. Attendance, therefore, is critical to
student achievement (Coleman, 1991; DuFour &Eaker, 1998; Davies,
1996; Epstein et al., 2002; Hinz et al., 2003).
Another key is held by engaged parents who support their students
schooling (Davies, 1996, Epstein, 1997). However, timely information is
often a fundamental ingredient in supporting involved parents. Effective,
timely communication is critical. Technology can provide a solution to
timely communication between schools and parents-allowing them the
opportunity to enforce high expectations for student attendance (Warren,
2004).
As schools look to technology for answers to problems such as
communication, the cost of such systems creates a burden for tight school
budgets. In the current economy, managing school finances is a complex
task, at best. However, immediate research of the impact of new
technologies, position educators to make better decisions about present
and future system adoption and use. Therefore, this study was broad in its
conceptual nature, and avenues for future research are revealed that might
allow educators to more completely understand the multiple variables
involved in the complex social issues of communication, student
attendance, and parental involvement.
31


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Recent legislation has mandated that schools be accountable for
increasing student achievementa task that is difficult to achieve when
students do not attend school. As a result, school administrators and public
school teachers perceptions of the seriousness of absenteeism, tardiness,
and cutting class have risen sharply as students progress from elementary
to middle school, and from middle school to high school (United States
Department of Education, 2001). Parents also voice concerns about
student truancy (absences from class that are unexcused) fueled by the
independence inborn in a high school environment (Corville-Smith Ryan,
Adams, & Dalicandro, 1998). To address this problem, it is necessary to
involve parents in monitoring student attendance at the high school level by
making attendance information readily available and easily accessible
(Epstein, 1992). Technology can assist by employing the use of the
Internet as a communication medium between schools and parents.
Few educators would deny the need for accountability (Moir, 2002),
and most would agree that many variables are inherent in the problems
32


surrounding student truancy (Corville-Smith et al., 1998; Craig, 1998;
DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Hinz et al., 2003). However, most educators would
also agree that together, schools and parents can work towards decreasing
student truancy, which will increase the probability that students will be
successful in high school (Davies, 1991; DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Epstein,
2001).
This literature review discusses the importance and the implications
of previous research in these areas. Relationships inherent between
student achievement, student attendance, and parental involvement are
discussed, and the use of technology as a tool to encourage parental
participation and foster communication in the battle against student truancy
is explored.
Student Achievement and Attendance: The Connection
Several studies have been conducted that suggest a significant
relationship between absenteeism and class performance (Devadoss &
Foltz, 1996; Moore et al., 2003; Romer, 1993; White, 1992). In the quest to
improve student achievement, it makes sense that examination of both
attendance and achievement occur simultaneously.
33


Student Achievement
In recent years, accountability for student achievement in public
education has commanded the spotlight. From state standardized testing
to charter schools and performance on college entrance tests, increasing
student achievement is a growing concern that has attracted national
attention, fueled debates, and defined new legislation.
A great deal of research has been conducted in multiple facets of
student achievement; including the areas of staff development, gender and
ethnicity, technology integration and implementation, data-driven
instruction, charter schools, differentiated instruction, year-round schools,
and special programs (American Federation of Teachers, 2003; Bellamy,
1996; DuFour& Eaker, 1998; Flaycock, 2004; Martin et al., 1999; McMillen,
2001 b). The list of specific topics related to student achievement is
endless. Flowever, within all of these studies lies the premise that schools
must increase and be accountable for student achievement.
Current legislation. Supported by new regulations such as the No
Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) (United States Department of
Education, 2001), we have a clear mandate that every child is expected to
demonstrate learning gains, particularly in the basic skills of math and
literacy. The NCLB is a landmark in education reform designed to improve
34


student achievement and attendance and change the culture of America's
schools. President George W. Bush describes this law as the cornerstone
of his administration. Clearly, our children are our future, and as President
Bush has expressed, "Too many of our neediest children are being left
behind (United States Department of Education, 2001).
The NCLB education reform act (United States Department of
Education, 2001) is broken into several categories that address
improvement and focus on student achievement. The two sections that are
pertinent to this study speak to parental involvement and student
attendance. The NCLB contains prescriptives and expectations for
improvement in both of these areas, and schools have been forced to
address concerns around the importance that both parental involvement
and student attendance have on student achievement (United States
Department of Education, 2001).
With the passage NCLB, Congress also reauthorized the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)the principal federal
law affecting education from kindergarten through high school (United
States Department of Education, 2001). In amending ESEA, the new law
represents a sweeping overhaul of federal efforts to support elementary
and secondary education achievement in the United States (United States
Department of Education, 2001).
35


Constraints and implications. Along with the passage of NCLB,
current legislation mandates that schools make adequate yearly progress
(AYP) in several designated areas related to student achievement (United
States Department of Education, 2001). Each area of progress is designed
to move educational reform closer to ensuring that 100 percent of students
graduate from high school with an educational background that allows
them to have opportunities and choices for their future. Consequently,
schools must show that they are making progress towards these goals
failure to do so jeopardizes several areas of public school education,
including financial funding.
As a result, school districts are employing multiple strategiesfrom
standardized curriculum to smaller class sizes and embedded
assessmentsto track progress at every level, multiple times throughout
the year. In order for these strategies to work and growth to occur,
however, students must be present at school (Bach, 2000; Davies, 1996;
Hinz et al., 2003).
Student Attendance
Students who frequently miss school or are absent from class invite
the risk of incurring academic gaps in their education (Haycock, 2004).
36


These gaps in academic learning represent another focus in the NCLB.
Eliminating gaps necessitates, once again, that students be present (both
physically and mentally) in the classroom (Dougherty, 1999; Haycock,
2004).
Consider this scenario. If a student is absent for 1 class period, that
represents 50 lost minutes of education and an absenteeism rate of 5.55
percent for that class. If the same student misses 3 class periods, the
absenteeism rate jumps to 16.66 percent and 150 minutes of lost
instructional time. Missing 5 class periods records a 27.77 percent
attendance rate and 250 minutes of lost instruction; based on an 18-week
class with a class duration of 50 minutes per class (900 total minutes per
class, per semester). The math is easy to do, but the effect of truancy is
astounding. Rood (1989) notes that across the United States on any given
day, some 2.5 million students will be absent from school. In fact, on an
average Monday, urban high schools typically see an absence rate of 30
percent, and it is not uncommon for many secondary students to miss from
20 to 90 days of school in an academic year (Dougherty, 1999).
Attendance can be interpreted in two aspects: (a) being physically
present in the building and (b) attending mentally to the task at hand
(Dougherty, 1999). For the purpose of this paper, the word attendance is
37


used to describe physical attendance in the classroom for the prescribed
period of time.
Historical perspective. Since the first days of compulsory education,
educators have had to deal with absenteeism and truancy problems. As
early as 1872, students who were dropping out were a cause for concern
for school officials (DuFour, 1983). In 1884, only 33 percent of the students
who were required to attend school actually did on a regular basis. In the
1930s more than two-thirds of the student absences were non-illness-
related (Rohrman, 1993). In the mid-1970s administrators began to notice
that full-day truancy and cutting class were increasing in prevalence
(DuFour, 1983). Absenteeism has continued to be a concern in the public
schools throughout the 1980s and 1990s and currently remains a primary
concern of teachers, administrators, and parents (Dougherty, 1999).
The National Center for Educational Statistics (1996) found that in
1990-1991, eight percent of high school students in suburban schools were
absent on a typical day, a rate consistent with the findings in the late
1970s. The rate was slightly higher for city schools at 12 percent. In large
urban schools such as San Francisco, 22 percent of all enrolled students in
1974 had accumulated 10 or more unexcused absences in a single year.
Out of 67 comprehensive high schools in New York, none reported
average daily attendance (ADA) rates of more than 84 percent in 1978
38


(National Center for Educational Statistics, 1996). In Colorado, days of
unexcused absences by students in public schools rose from a total of
500,388 in 1969-1970 to more than 648,378 in 1989-1999 (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2001). This is a jump of nearly 30 percent and
represents approximately 3,566,079 total minutes of lost learning.2
The National Center for Educational Statistics (1996) also
conducted a survey in 1990-1991 of teachers in urban and rural schools in
the United States. Fifty-five percent of the teachers surveyed thought
absenteeism was a serious problem, and 49 percent also thought tardiness
was a serious problem. Concomitantly, absenteeism has been marked by
many educators as the most persistent problem that schools face
(Devadoss & Foltz, 1996; Rood, 1989).
Current legislation. In public education, the inception of school
report cards and measurements designed to rate a school on multiple
factors related to student achievement dictate that schools become
dependent upon students scores on high-stakes performance testing and
state standardized tests in order to remain accountable for student
achievement (National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1998).
One of the measurements included in these reports is Average Daily
2 Calculated using 648,378 multiplied by 5.5 hours of actual instructional time per day as
an average. Increase in student population in state of Colorado not accounted for in this
calculation.
39


Attendance (ADA). The ADA of each school is designed to be a measure
of student attendance, and is measured on a percentage scale from zero
through one-hundred (United States Department of Education, 2001).
Many states use ADA in their funding formulas. Consequently,
school administrators are now additionally concerned about student
absenteeism because of the effect student attendance has on school
finances. A decreasing ADA could pre-dispose a school to an
unsatisfactory ratinga classification that could be detrimental to the
financial stability of a school and a school district.
Domains of absenteeism. Many researchers subscribe to three main
domains of school absence: personal characteristics of the student, family
factors, and school factors (Corville-Smith et al., 1998). Most recently,
however, it has been recommended that the mutual and shared nature of
the relations between the student, family, school and community be
considered (DuFour& Eaker, 1998). Additional research has
acknowledged that these relationships are important (Corville-Smith et al.,
1998). Studies found that students who were consistently absent from
school scored lower on academic self-concept, self-esteem, social
competence in the classroom, perceived cohesion in the family, parental
acceptance, parental discipline, and perception of school characteristics
and school personnel than students who attended school on a consistent
40


basis (Corville-Smith et al., 1998). Absenting students also scored higher
than consistent attenders on antisocial behavior in the classroom,
perceived parental control, and perceived conflict in the family.
Constraints and implications. The problem of student absenteeism
(truancy) is complex at best. For the purpose of this study, student truancy
is defined as the amount of time that students are not present in class. The
Colorado Department of Education measures student truancy through a
formula that counts the number of entire periods that students are not
present in classexcluding tardies (Colorado Department of Education,
2005). Although the Colorado Department of Education (2005) counts both
excused absences and unexcused absences in their truancy calculations,
this study focused on the number of periods that students are not in
classspecifically those absences that are unexcused.
Research has identified several additional causes for student
truancy, such as (a) unsupportive school environments, (b) lack of
community and parental support, (c) chaotic family life, (d) personal
deficits, (e) weather, and (f) transportation, in addition to (g) poor health
(Dougherty, 1999). It has always been accepted that students will be
absent because of personal illness, a death in the family, and family
emergencies. These types of absences are typically classified as excused
absences in most school districts.
41


Most concerning, however, are absences other than poor health,
which are often initiated by the student rather than the parent. It is a
common practice for students to miss school for general appointments,
including tanning sessions and haircuts, good weather, vacation, and
senior skip day, or to avoid scheduled tests and assignments (Corville-
Smith et al., 1998). Use of these types of absences can cause the average
daily attendance to drop, and student achievement to decline (Dougherty,
1999). Situational experiences involving student absenteeism vary at each
individual school location. However, a common thread exists among
students who incur unexcused absencesthose absences usually occur
without parental knowledge, regardless of the reasoning behind the
decision to not attend class.
From a societal view, student truancy is a concern. A school
violence survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of
1,234 regular public education schools in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia in the spring and summer of 1997 (Ethics Resource Center,
1998). Results from this survey suggest that the three discipline issues
most frequently rated as serious or moderate problems by school
administrators include student tardiness, student absenteeism or ditching,
and physical conflicts (Ethics Resource Center, 1998). Students who are
not in class are often times creating disturbances in the community.
42


Coupled with the unease that todays youth are not gaining the education
necessary to become productive citizens when they are absent from an
educational setting during their school years, perpetual truancy leads to
problems with delinquency and crime, which occur when large numbers of
students, particularly teenagers, are not in school (Dougherty, 1999; Stipek
& Weisz, 1981).
With an increased focus on student achievement, schools must
ensure students attend school as much as possible. By working with
students, teachers, parents, and community members, it is possible to
keep attendance rates high and students learning (Raising school
attendance, 2001). As a result, school districts are reviewing attendance
policies, implementing new attendance regulations, and are reaching out to
parents and the community for support (Raising school attendance, 2001).
Parental Involvement: The Other Connection
We know that engaged parents hold keys to academic success. As
educators continue to explore the most effective ways to increase student
attendance and advance the levels of student achievement, the realization
that success in learning requires teamworka partnership for cause
becomes the cultivating premise. However, often the question arises,
43


Which is more important for student learning and success in schoolthe
school or the family? (Epstein, 2001). Both the family and the school
socialize and educate children, and both play an important role in child
development. However, each can be quick to point the finger of blame if
students fail or proclaim victory if students succeed (Chipman, 2001).
Nevertheless, developing and enhancing a collaborative partnership
between families and schools remains essential in promoting student
success in school and in life.
Parent Involvement as Policy
Research demonstrates that parent involvement in education drops
off dramatically at the secondary level, and many educators believe that
high-school students dont want their parents involved (Children Youth and
Family Consortium, 2004). Yet, a 1994 study by Epstein (1995) shows that
82 percent of high school students agreed that parent involvement was
needed at the high school level, and 80 percent of parents indicated that
they wanted to become more involved. However, only 32 percent of the
teachers surveyed believed that it was their responsibility to involve
parents. Rather, many teachers felt that the process of engaging parents
as partners was the responsibility of school administrators (Epstein, 1995).
44


As a result, parent involvement is widely acclaimed as an important
component of educational reform (Dodd, 1998). Goal 8 in The National
Education Goals (United States Department of Education, 1994) stated
that "by the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will
increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social,
emotional, and academic growth of children." These partnerships must
include all key stakeholders and be successful in promoting student
growth.
Current legislation, such as the NCLB (United States Department of
Education, 2001) is built on four concepts, (a) accountability for results, (b)
an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research, (c)
expanded parental options, and (d) expanded local control and flexibility.
Consequently, schools are now required to provide expanded opportunities
for parents to become involved in education, regardless of the level of
education. In some states, laws have been established that mandate
employers to give employees hours of leave during the school year to
attend their childrens conferences or school activities (Children Youth and
Family Consortium, 2004). Understanding these paradigms necessitate
that the multiple constructs of parental involvement be examined.
Historical perspective. Parent involvementor school-family
partnershipshave fluctuated and developed over the past century.
45


Although the terms parent involvement, school-family partnerships," and
collaborative teams have all been used interchangeably to describe the
alliance between families and schools, the most frequently used term,
parent involvement, will be used throughout this paper to infer a
partnership between schools, parents and the community, with mutual
goals and objectives.
Beginning as early as the 1920s, a parents role in the education of
their child was based on the premise that parents were helpers (Chipman,
2001). They joined PTA, helped with fundraisers, assisted at field day,
provided treats and snacks, and helped with homework, as needed. The
role was that of a leader-follower.
Decades later, beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s,
parental involvement evolved and the idea of community involvement in the
schools began to take shape (Center of Families Communities Schools
and Children's Learning, 1994). A partnership began to develop that
encompassed a leader-contributor dimensionmany times ending up in a
tug-of-war debate about the proper way to educate a child. Although the
family-school partnership was still valued, distinct divisions were created.
Religion, emotional, and cultural education was to be the family
responsibility and schools were to be responsible for academics
(Desimone, 1999).
46


More recently, parental involvement has evolved to become a
collaborative partnership between schools, families and the community
(Epstein, 2001). However, a growing number of families are unable to
participate in this partnership for their children. Cultural influences,
economics, life style, and community expectations have created barriers
that prevent some parents from becoming involved in their childs
education. Schools have been forced to integrate a much wider range of
services beyond academics to meet the needs of their student population
(Chipman, 2001; Epstein, 2001). These realities have led many to believe
that the lack of parental involvement in schools is one contributor to the
problems in education today, including the problem of student absenteeism
(Zellman & Waterman, 1998).
Consequently, many researchers have developed specific ideas
about what constitutes parental involvement. Carter and Wojtkiewicz
(2000), view parental involvement in broad terms, expanding their definition
to include more than just attendance at school-related events or helping
out at field day. They view parental involvement as an interaction on all
levels between schools and families with the primary goal being
educational achievement. Epstein (1997) also views parental involvement
in broad constructs, and defines six types of community-school-parent
involvement categories related specifically to educational achievement.
47


As a result, a great number of studies have been conducted that
examine identified areas of parental involvement in relation to student
achievement at school (Ames, 1993; Carlson, 1993; Carter & Wojkiewicz,
2000; Deslandes et al., 1997; Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, &
Fralellig, 1987). Instruction manuals are available to help schools and
districts promote partnerships with parents and the community (Davies,
2000; Epstein et al., 2002; Jones, 2001; Raffaele, 1999; Swap, 1993).
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several researchers noted little or
no effect of parental involvement on adolescent school performance (Keith,
Reimers, Fehrmann, Pottebaum, & Aubey, 1986). However, Keith (1993)
explains these findings in part by the numerous definitions of parent
involvement in studies on school performance. Within the past decade,
many researchers have looked beyond the idea of direct parent-school
involvement and have examined characteristics inherent within the family
structure to help understand parental involvement.
Most recently, Zellman and Waterman (1998) discovered that
parenting style and enthusiasm were better predictors of higher reading
scores than parent-school involvement. Carter and Wojtkiewicz (2000)
examined the role that gender might play in various areas of parental
involvement. Their studies support the hypothesis that daughters discuss
educational matters with their parents more than do sons. However, their
48


studies do not support the hypothesis that parents expectations would be
higher for sons than daughters. They also found that homework was more
often checked for sons, and females were more likely to be limited by
parents in time spent socializing.
In a separate study, Desimone (1999) discovered that parent-school
involvement was more predictive of grades than test scores for children of
all racial-ethnic and income groups. Comparing the coefficients of
determination before and after the addition of the parent-involvement
variables demonstrated that the parent-involvement variables accounted
for almost twice as much of the variation in grades than in test scores
(p. 10).
Deslandes (1997) promotes home environment influences as a
predictor of academic achievement, and Epstein (1992) reports that
parental involvement in a childs educationmore than a familys
educational backgroundcan be one of the strongest predictors of a
childs academic success. Her theoretical model of overlapping spheres of
influence creates a framework for understanding child development and
school achievement. The model focuses on the roles that parents and the
school play and on the linkages that are required between schools and
families to promote academic success. In this model, schools and families
are represented by two spheres that can be pushed together or pulled
49


apart depending upon the degree of family and school collaboration
(Deslandes, 1997; Epstein, 1987).
Thinking about the roles that parent characteristics, gender, and
ethnicity play in parental involvement, and even the way in which student
achievement is measured, provides further proof as to the complexity of
this idea of partnerships and parental involvement. As a result, the concept
of creating communities of learners that include parents, schools and
communities have surfaced in an attempt to include the needs of all
stakeholders (Dufour & Eaker, 1998). This idea is concurrent with the way
in which Chud (1998) defines a community. He says that a community is;
a group of people living together in one locality and having
common interests, goals, and customs, and having a system
of values that is shared and commonly understood among its
members. (Chud, 1998)
Additionally, recent legislation has mandated that schools and
districts promote partnerships between schools, parents and communities
in the goal of promoting increased student achievement (United States
Department of Education, 2001).
Student perspectives. When examining why parental involvement
has an influence on childrens academic outcomes, it is important to also
acknowledge the student perspective. Comer (1986) writes The
knowledge that my parents knew and appeared to like and respect the
50


people at my school had a profound impact on my behavior (p. 443).
Teenagers often have a negative attitude to parental involvement at the
secondary level. They want independence, and teenagers prefer that
parents stay in the background. As a result, parents find it more difficult to
establish relationships with teachers and schools and often times succumb
to the teenagers wishes (Dodd, 1998).
Regardless, discussions between parents and adolescents rely on
accurate, timely information transmitted by the school (Deslandes et al.,
1997). Sitting on a school committee or heading a capital campaign does
not have the same positive effect as the fruitful connections parents make
with their children at home when together they discuss the events of the
day (Epstein, 2001). Students are not passive participators in their
achievement. Rather, they are a crucial aspect in the partnerships between
schools, families and the community. They need to be included in
discussions about their educational achievement, and it is critical that
parents and communities hold students accountable for their behavior and
academic progress (Epstein et al., 2002; Keith et al., 1993).
51


Constraints and Implications
Parental participation in school matters is widely accepted and
expected in most schools. However, the multiple roles that parents may
assume have not been carefully examined nor have the issues
accompanying their involvement been thoroughly considered (Craig, 1998).
Broad interpretation of parental involvement must not overlook the fact that
ideas around parental involvement in education are not encompassing
throughout all cultures. Time, value, traditions, other commitments and the
willingness to become and remain involved with students educational
achievement are issues that parents of all cultural backgrounds employ
(Lopez, 2001; Valdes, 1996). However, the way in which parents address
these issues may differ and may not employ the same look and feel among
different cultures.
Economic influences. The primary barriers for family involvement
are time and money (Children Youth and Family Consortium, 2004).
Parents often feel that being involved with their students education
requires a physical presence within the school building. A large number of
children come from single-parent homes where the only parent often works
long hours to support the family. Yet other children have two-parent
households where both parents work full-time. Job responsibilities in
combination with other family errands and household tasks occupy all of
52


their time and create the boundaries for priorities. In both of these
examples, parents may have a high interest in the education of their
children, yet their interest may not be visible to educators because their
presence at school is limited (Whitaker & Whitaker, 1999).
At the same time, some parents did not have positive experiences
when they were in school, and their only association with educators and
public schools were negative. They may have difference perspectives
about the importance of being involved, and are likely to be reluctant to
spend time revisiting these childhood experiences. (Whitaker &
Whitaker, 1999). Valdes (1996) suggests that often times, parents who feel
distanced from the school community for whatever reason, do not feel
comfortable placing themselves, either physically or otherwise, in that
environment even when time permits.
Concurrently, if parents have students in different schools, and
activities are scheduled at the same time, parents are stretched pretty thin.
They may have to choose which events to attend, or which child needs the
most help. Often, the choice favors the younger students, and the older
students quickly become aware that their parents dont attend to their
activities with the same interest and consistency.
Cultural influences. Lopez (2001) broadens the concept of parental
involvement through his research with marginalized families. These
53


families are often tagged as being uninvolved in their childrens education.
In contrast, however, these families simply lack the understanding of how
parental involvement is viewed outside their cultural repertoire (Chipman,
2001; Valdes', 1996). These families teach their children about a strong
work ethic, the value of education, and the importance of family. However,
in their cultural belief systems, education is often secondary to family
responsibilities. Additionally, families who have language difficulties find it
difficult to communicate with the school. Therefore, becoming involved in
their childs education and obtaining information about their students
progress outside of the home is not believed to be a positive option
(Valdes', 1996).
As diversity is embraced, cultural understanding needs to be
validated in order to enhance partnerships between schools and families.
We must not assume that families will quickly become part of the
mainstream culture, or understand the expectations of the school
(Colombo, 1994). Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1995) suggest that it is
imperative to find out why parents choose to become involved. Their model
suggests that parents become involved in their childs education because
they see that as their role as a parent. However, in order for parents to feel
comfortable in their role, they must believe they have the skills and
opportunities to do so (Chipman, 2001). Parents who received help from
54


their parents, who were successful in school, and who feel comfortable in
the school environment are more apt to become involved (Epstein, 1997).
As a result, If parents do not feel adequate in helping their child with
school work at home or do not understand the extent of their childrens
abilities, or if parents do not experience the opportunities to become
involved, than it becomes easy for parents to drop out or disengage
(Children Youth and Family Consortium, 2004; Chipman, 2001).
Additionally, if they feel that they have limited time for meaningful
interaction, or that communication occurs primarily during a crisis situation,
they may shy away from participation (Epstein et al., 2002).
The demands and responsibilities outside of the childs school
primarily influence how parents may become involved rather than when or
if they become involved (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995). Developing a
routine communication link between home and school is a challenge that
may be more difficult and more critical than ever before (Whitaker &
Whitaker, 1999). Responsive approaches addressing the needs of families
and helping them to understand their support and involvement can make a
difference in the academic achievement of their children is a critical
protective factor for children, particularly those living in high-risk
circumstances (Children Youth and Family Consortium, 2004; Epstein et
al., 2002)
55


Educator barriers. For educators, there are several perceived
barriers for parental involvement. Many teachers resist contacting parents
because they doubt the individual families ability to address school
concerns, or they dont believe the family cares about the students
progress (Children Youth and Family Consortium, 2004). Additionally,
teachers may resist family contact because they feel unprepared and not
adequately trained to work with parents as partners, and some may fear
conflict with families.
The research is compelling and confirming that healthy, on-going
partnerships are important in an educational community. Home-school
collaboration is an attitude, not an activity (Davies, 1991). The way schools
care about children is reflected in the way schools care about the childrens
families (Davies, 1991; Epstein, 1995). School practices for reaching out to
uninvolved families are a strong predictor of parent involvement (Epstein et
al., 2002). Therefore, it is imperative that schools embrace and provide
multiple opportunities for all parents to become involved in some way,
provide consistent communication opportunities, and applaud involvement
in every capacity.
56


Communication: The Key
We have no doubt that parent-school partnerships are critical to
student achievement. However, information is often a key missing
ingredient. If parents have more information about their students
participation and attendance, they may be able to exercise more influence.
But how do you communicate with 125 schools, 85,000 employees, and
over 400,000 parents at a moments notice? In the event of an emergency,
communication is critical. But consider the challenge of communicating to
each and every parent about their students attendance at school on a
daily basis with timely, accurate data. This is a challenge that most school
districts face every day.
Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia (the 12th largest school
district in the United States) has implemented an e-mail system that allows
parents to get instant e-mails from the school or district (Carr, 2004a). One
of the first to be implemented, Fairfax set the stage for looking to
technology to provide parents and the community with timely, accurate
information about student absenteeism.
57


Communication Theory
We all know that we cannot act on information that we do not
receive. Simplistically, communication theory provides us with a map to
guide our understanding and operate on this constructthat
communication is a series of events that begin with the source and end
with the receiver. The effect of the communication is measured by the
outcome after the message is received (Griffin, 1994).
There are endless theories that address multiple constructs of
communication, from telecommunications to speech and language
acquisition, and marketing techniques. It is not the purpose of this author to
review and critique these theories. However, it is important to make note of
a few noted theories and ideas addressing communication. Craig, (1999)
identifies seven established traditions of communication theory: (a) socio-
psychological traditioncommunication as interpersonal influence, (b)
cybernetic traditioncommunication as information processing, (c)
rhetorical traditioncommunication as artful public address, (d) semiotic
traditioncommunication as the process of sharing meaning through
signs, (e) socio-cultural traditioncommunication as the creation and
enactment of social reality, (f) critical traditioncommunication as a
reflective challenge of unjust discourse, and (g) phenomenological
traditioncommunication as the experience of self and others through
58


dialogue (p. 120). Some of these traditions are objective, others are
interpretive. However, each tradition holds a purpose in solving
communication problems as humans interact with each other (Craig, 1999).
For the purpose of this study, a conceptual model that references
the Maletzke Model of Mass Media (McQuail & Windahl, 1981), and Berios
SMCR Model (Griffin, 1994) has been developed. The combination model
has been enhanced by integrating the Lasswell Formula and the Shannon-
Weaver Model of Communication (Griffin, 1994). See Figure 1.1.
The Maletzke Model, developed in 1963, was originally developed
for mass media, and is complex in its entirety. This model suggests that in
practical communication, reflection on choices and to what extent they
have been determined by factors associated with the four components to
communicationthe communicator, the message, the medium, and the
responseis useful in analyzing the outcomes (McQuail & Windahl, 1981).
This model suggests that components such as self-image, personality,
team structure, social environment and public character play a part in the
message and medium used to communicate. Additionally, the receiver is
influenced by multiple personal constructs, including their selection of the
content, experiences, image of the message, self-image, personality
structure, and social environment in their interpretation of the message
(Griffin, 1994).
59


Berios SMCR Model builds on the Maletzke model. It re-defines
communication processes as source, message, channel, and receiver.
However, it also includes the five senses as participatory agents in the
channel process (McQuail & Windahl, 1981). Maletzke considers the
senses sociological and psychological only and not a fifth component.
More recently, the Lasswell Formula (Griffin, 1994) also a
transmission model of mass media communication, suggest five separate
components of communication instead of just four. These include the
components of the communicator, the message, the channel, the receiver,
and the effect. Lasswells model was developed to answer the types of
questions apparent in control analysis and effects research, but is useful in
several categories of communication (Craig, 1999; Griffin, 1994).
Finally, the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication suggests the
addition of noise as a construct throughout the communication process
(Griffin, 1994; McQuail & Windahl, 1981). Noise can explain why elements
of communication become distorted and information is changed between
the source and the receiver. This is commonly illustrated through the
passing of stories. Each individual adds a perspective and understanding
to the story as it is passed along. Each receiver perceives a different
message as communicated through various sources.
60


Communication: A Model for Education
Figure 1.1 represents the conceptual model of communication
developed as a combination of previously established communication
models. Additionally, Figure 1.2 magnifies the highlighted sections of
Figure 1.1, focusing specifically on the communication process and the
inherent noise that can impede, prevent, or change the message prior to
receptionultimately affecting the effect and the outcome that can be
expected. These models were previously introduced in Chapter 1.
Technology: A Tool
The industrial nations of the world have become information
societies. Advance technologies have created a communication revolution,
and the individual has become an active participant in the process (Rogers,
1986). Without doubt, technology has enhanced and changed the way we
communicate around the world and ultimately in the classroom. One
special characteristic of electronic technology is the increased number and
variety of new communication tools that are readily available and the
nature of how these new media function to enhance information exchanges
(Rogers, 1986). Recently, educational institutions have adopted and began
the implementation of these technologies.
61


Educational Technology
Within the last decade there has been extensive research
conducted on the how-tos of integrating technology into the classroom
what is termed instructional technology (Anzar & Holsing, 1999; Blacker,
2002). Many of these studies have expanded and have analyzed the effect
that instructional technology has on student engagement and student
achievement. Most recently, there has also been an increased focus in on-
line educational instruction and electronic instructional design. This type of
instruction eliminates the physical presence requirement of a classroom
and allows instruction and communication by using e-mail, voice-mail,
electronic chat rooms and bulletin boards, the Internet and content-specific
software at many levels (Burbules, 1997).
Administrative Technology
However, far fewer studies have been conducted on how to use
technology as a communication tool between families and schools to
increase student achievementor what is termed administrative
technology. Administrative technology includes the use of technology as an
organizational, communication and management tool used by teachers and
62


administrators to assist with the routines of operating a school. Examples
of administrative technology include the automization of standardized
report cards, maintenance of student information databases, e-mail and
voice-mail, and general accounting procedures for monitoring school
budgets.
Although the military, the government, and major corporations have
been using electronic forms of communication for over ten years as a
means to organize, communication and plan, schools have been slower to
adopt and implement this tool. There are several reasons whythe most
prominent being the availability of financial resources that can be targeted
towards technology acquisition and implementation (Anzar & Holsing,
1999).
Nevertheless, the need for consistent communication between
schools and parents continues to possess a place mark in educational
reform. Type 2 of Epsteins Typology of Home-School Collaboration
Strategies (1997), suggests that communication in words all families can
understand is the responsibility of schools. At the same time, effective
communication between families and school is the foundation of all family
involvement (Christenson, 2002). Finding ways to use new technology,
such as voice-mail, e-mail and web services can greatly increase
63


communication between parents and the school (Children Youth and
Family Consortium, 2004).
As a result, several districts around the country now employ
technology-enhanced communication systems as a means to communicate
with parents and the community. Some are more complex than others.
However, all are used with the intention of providing information to a large
group of people in a short amount of time, using very little man-hours of
labor.
As technology improves, the ability to provide parents and
community with information on student progress becomes a reality. Most
recently, several software companies have developed student information
systems with web access portals that allow parents to view student
informationspecifically attendancein a timely, accurate venue (Edulink
Systems, 2002; Infinite Campus, 2005; NCS Pearson, 2002). This type of
communication had been difficult in the past and previous methods to
provide this information to parents had become obsolete.
Performance and Possibilities
Engaging parents and communities in the education of children is a
challenge that researchers and educators have been trying to answer since
64


the first school building was constructed. However, this question is even
more pressing today since connections between individuals, groups and
institutions are being threatened (Anzar & Holsing, 1999). For example
latchkey children are the norm, rather than a rarity. The gap between the
poor and middle class continues to widen. How can families who are
struggling to put food on the table be asked to monitor student progress
and find time to communicate on a regular basis with their childs school?
Only recently has the concept of using technology to elevate parental
involvement been investigated.
A study conducted in South Florida in 2002, used technology as a
means of communication about student progress, student homework and
student attendance (Anzar & Holsing, 1999). The results of this study
suggest that technology is a high-interest medium that offers high returns
for both parents and students. The flexibility, value and applicability make it
an ideal medium for increasing and maintaining consistent communication
between parents and schools (Anzar & Holsing, 1999).
Critical Perspectives
New technology always invites critical analysis from those who invite
inquiry about the inherent value of change. There are several researchers
65


who propose critical perspectives regarding the use of technology in
education (Anzar& Holsing, 1999; Blacker, 2002; Burbules & Callister,
2000; Callister Jr., 2002; LeBaron, 2001). Many of these researchers
question the use of instructional technology as a means of teaching
students (Burbules & Callister, 2000). Others question whether or not
society provides us with a choice of when to use technology and cautions
against tunnel vision (Anzar & Holsing, 1999). Blacker (2002) questions
whether or not computers are increasingly necessary to mediate everyday
human interactions. Concurrently, Wheatley (2005) echoes the warnings of
Habermas (Callister Jr., 2000) and cautions against the exclusive use of
technology as a replacement for creative, self-organizing systems and the
existence of understanding as a communicative experience. Davenport
and Prusak (1998) suggest that information does not equal knowledge, and
suggests the growing availability of information by means of technology
needs to be balanced with the creativity and experiences of human
interaction.
Each one of these researchers approaches technology in a different
arena, and perceives the advantages and disadvantages through a
different set of lenses. The debate over the use of technology is complex.
Discussions about technology philosophy, diffusion and implementation
theories, critical perspectives about the use of technology in a civilian
66


world, and discussions about how to use technology are areas that justify
substantial conversation beyond the scope of this paper. Understanding
that technology is currently available to educators as a communication tool,
this study is designed to be a preliminary study that may open the doors for
future study and debate.
Constraints and implications. Because of family conditions, many
parents are not in a position to seek out information on their own, or feel
that information is not readily available in a format that they are
comfortable with. Therefore, is it good to rely on technology? This is a good
question, but who really has a choice? From grocery store checkout
scanners to automated teller machines, automated gas pumps, and the
Internet, our lives are permeated by technology and the new world of
information acquisition (Anzar & Holsing 1999).
In education, technology does not always sustain a rosy lens. The
results of the South Florida study suggest that technology is an appropriate
tool to enhance communication, but it is not immune from controversy
(Anzar & Holsing, 1999). The South Florida study also acknowledged that
during interviews with parents, it was brought to their attention that some
families share their households with multiple generations. Using a single
dial-up phone line was cumbersome and restrictive, and other families
simply did not have an operational telephone line or could not afford the
67


extra fees for Internet access (Anzar & Holsing, 1999). Additionally, some
researchers warn that despite the claims that technology enhances
communication opportunities, they also warn that this tool requires
considerable financial resources (Bryan, Merchant, & Cramer, 1999).
These resources are difficult for service-based organizations to acquire.
Digital divide. Despite the aggressive implementation of technology
in society today, there is a term that is descriptive of a phenomenon where
various geographic, socioeconomic and cultural subpopulations have
widely varying access to a range of digital technologies, including
computers, the Internet, mobile phones, and TVthe digital divide
(Brotman, 2002). The U.S. Commerce Department report divides people
into two groups: (a) those who have the best information technology that is
available, and (b) those who do not (Callister Jr. & Burbules, 2002).
Experts in all areas of technology have voiced solutions to the digital
divide that include the force of the market, mandating equal access
throughout all strata of society, and political orders that enable all people to
participate as e-citizens in a cyber democracy (Brotman, 2002). Some
indicate that the largest problem contributing to the digital divide is between
the policymakers and the business community, and the business
community must form a new compact with the policy world that ensures
that income and geography are not insurmountable barriers to
68


telecommunications access. Brotman (2002) also suggests that the digital
divide is more than offering Internet access to every citizen, more than
social policy or computer penetration. Solving the digital divide means
creating a set of outcomes that allows society to thrive at a new level and
achieve success equal to no other time in history. Regardless, those
students and families who do have access to technology, or have
technology readily available, are at a great disadvantage. It is logical that
raising the level of digital access by making technology and tools of the
digital age affordable and available is an important national goal (Callister
Jr. & Burbules, 2002).
Despite these challenges, and because of technological advances
and increased federal funding policies, the Internet has now reached
almost all schools in the United States (Bull & Bull, 2003). Carr (2004c)
reports that 67 percent of all adults are now onlinecompared to just 9
percent in 1995. More than 140 million adults are now using the Internet on
a regular basis, averaging seven hours per week per person (Carr, 2004b).
In contrast however, the gap between students who do and dont
have access to the Internet at home remains concerning (Bull & Bull,
2003). Students and parents who have access are more Internet-savvy
and possess an understanding of how to retrieve information in greater
capacity than those students and parents who do not have access (Bull,
69


2003). However, Callister and Burbules (2002) warn that simply providing
access is not enough. They posit that quality of access is just as important
as quantity of access. Parents and students who are not familiar with
technology processes need training and support in order to fully benefit
from the advantages of technology. Therefore, it is more than providing
students and parents with computers and accessit extends to the way in
which computers and information will improve their lives and level the
playing field to future opportunity.
Summary
Every school should analyze attendance patterns, review
attendance policies, consistently enforce, reach out to parents, use
technology, review student attendance regularly, model positive
attendance behaviors, and give students what they need to get to school
(Raising school attendance, 2001). At the same time, school must ensure
consistent, effective communication in transmitting attendance messages
from schools to parents in a timely, accurate manner. Time-pressed
parents are seeking new ways of staying involved in their students
educational progress (Epstein et al., 2002; Carr, 2004b).
70


Technology has a proven track record in assisting with
communication and providing information. No technology in the past two
decades has profoundly impacted the communication of organizations as
information and communication technologies (Gibson & Jackson, 1987).
Using technology as a communication tool may provide opportunities to
parents and the community that do not currently exist in secondary public
education. Therefore, the goals of this ground-breaking study are two-fold:
(1) to acquire an understanding of how communication between schools
and parents can affect student attendance, and (2) understand the
contributions that new forms of technology can provide and what role these
communication tools play in student absenteeism
Callister and Burbules (2002) suggest that we acknowledge the
interdependency of conflicting goals and recognize the inevitability of
unintended consequences. We must understand that information and
communication technologies do not simply produce good or bad
consequences; rather, they produce consequences that can be viewed as
either good or bad in relationships that are complex and in may cases
unpredictable.
The researcher acknowledges the complexity of student attendance,
communication, and technology as a tool. While this study included the
effects of one small technology-enhanced communication system, in
71


combination with other student-related variables at the core of its
implementation, the belief stands that immediate research will position
educators to make better decisions about system adoption and use.
72


CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
Studying student attendance and the communication of attendance
information to parents necessitates that attendance data be identified,
categorized, and measured. Over a two-year period of time, this study was
designed to quantitatively measure student attendance. The intent was to
form a foundation of understanding for future studies into the complex
arena of student absenteeism.
The Study
Participants
In order to adequately represent the entire population of students in
the ninth and tenth grades in the participating school district, the population
of students in this study included 5,451 ninth and tenth-grade students
from eight different high schools in a large metropolitan area.
In order to respect vulnerable populations (Creswell, 2003) and
meet the ethical research requirements of the institutional review boards at
the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center and the
73


school district where the research data was collected, all fourteen high
schools in this school district were sent written invitations from the
researcher and the school district research office. Each school was
provided equal opportunity to participate in this study. A research
prospectus was provided to all schools, and participation was optional.
Additionally, the right to withdraw at any time was insured.
Ten high schools responded with written permission and agreed to
release their attendance data. These schools were geographically diverse
and represented suburban student populations, mountain student
populations, and inner-city student populations. Although the schools were
all members of the same school district, the physical location of each
school was widespread, with the diameter encircling the select schools
exceeding 98 miles and the shortest distance between schools equaling
2.2 miles.
Participant data at each school were selected based on their
continuous attendance for a period of two years (during their ninth and
tenth grade years consecutively, or during their tenth and eleventh grade
years consecutively) at each individual school. Student records that did not
contain two full years of consecutive attendance were eliminated from the
sample, which reduced the initial sample from approximately 8,325
students to 5,451 students.
74


Figure 3.1 illustrates the population of students that were included in
this study. The oval, represented by a broken line, encircles the group of
students who qualify for this studyas determined by grade level. By
design, this selected sample excludes students who enter or withdraw from
high school during the two years of the study.
Figure 3.1
Student Sample Grade Level Representation_____________________________
SCHOOL STUDENT BODY
2003-2004 2004-2005
/
/
\
s
Grade 9
Grade 10
Grade 11
Grade 12
Grade 9
- *. ^
. Grade 10
\
/
> Grade 11^'
Grade 12
High school students in grade 12 often have schedules that differ in
the number of periods they attend school based upon graduation
requirements, internship assignments, and credits already completed.
75


Therefore, their attendance patterns are not consistent with students in
grades 9, 10 and 11. As a result, students in grade 11 during the 2003-
2004 school year were excluded from this study, as they were in grade 12
during the second year of data collection. Additionally, because students
who were in grade 9 during the 2004-2005 school-year had not attended
high school for a consecutive two-year period, their data was also
eliminated from the data sample. Although it is important to study
attendance for all students, the design of this study also prohibited
including students who withdrew or enrolled during this two-year time
period because of the logistics of tracking their whereabouts and obtaining
access to attendance records at multiple locations.
The number of participants in each group (school) included all
qualifying students. Concern about proper representation of all groups of
students throughout the ten schools suggested that processes to make
each group equal in size not be incorporated into this study, and therefore
the number of participants from each school was not equal. Additionally,
some schools had fewer parent participants simply because their overall
student population was less than some of the larger schools. Additionally,
some schools noticed higher parent participation in the use of the on-line
system.
76


Variables
One of the most important independent variables in this study was
the number of logons that parents had during the school year. For parents
who accessed the attendance module of the online student information
system during the school year (2003-2004), the number of logons during
the school year was recorded as a number for the level-of-use variable.
This number ranged from 1 through 310. Students whose parents did not
use the attendance module were given a 0 in the level-of-use variable
field. It is possible that a parent may have signed up to use the system
(initiate a password assignment) but never accessed the attendance
module. In this scenario, a 0 was also recorded for that parent in the
level-of-use field.
Other variables that were considered in this study included:
ethnicity, student cumulative grade point average (GPA), student grade
level, student gender, and the number of unexcused absences incurred by
each participating student for the previous school year (2002-2003). The
dependent variable was the number of unexcused absences that students
incurred during the 2003-2004 school yearthe first year of
implementation of the online student information system.
77


Data Collection
The student data for this study was collected using a query function
on the district student information system (NCS Pearson, 2002). All parent
data was collected using system-generated reports from the online student
information system that was implemented during the time the data for this
study was collected (Edulink Systems, 2002).
Student data. Attendance data was exported from the SASI Student
Information System (NCS Pearson, 2002)once at the end of the first year
and a second time at the end of the second year. The last name and first
name of each student was collected for the sole purpose of matching
parental use information from a second software program to the
appropriate data record. After matching the data to the correct student
record, the student names were extracted from the data and deleted to
prevent the possibility of identification during analysis. Random numbers
were then assigned to each record for identification purposes. The data
was exported into an electronic spreadsheet to insure accurate coding. The
data was then imported into SPSS for analysis.
Attendance data was recorded for each student under two variables.
The number of unexcused absences for each student was recorded for the
2002-2003 school year as one independent variable, and the number of
78


unexcused absences for the 2003-2004 school year was recorded as the
dependent variable.
Ethnicity data was self-reported information recorded in the district
student information system (NCS Pearson, 2002). This information was
categorized into five separate categories (American Indian, Asian-Pacific,
Black, Hispanic, and White/Other). For the purpose of this study, these
categories were combined into two categoriesnon-White and White.
Student grade level was reported as of the second year of the study (2003-
2004), and included students in either the 10th or the 11th grades. Student
gender was reported as male (1) or female (2).
Parent data. Data containing parental use of the student module in
the online student information system was exported from the EduLink
InTouch OnLine (Edulink Systems, 2002) system. For the group of
students whose parents accessed the online system, data quantifying the
number of times that the system was accessed during the 2003-2004
school year was collected and matched to the student record from the
SASI (NCS) Student Information System (range 1-310). Parents who did
not access the attendance module of the system during the 2003-2004
school year were assigned the number zero. This data was transferred to
the master spreadsheet, verified, and double-checked several times prior
79


to being imported into the SPSS (2001) statistic analysis software program
for analysis.
Data constraints. In all cases, the data organization and exportation
was done by a third-party, district employee, who did not maintain an active
role in any other capacity in this study. However, after data collection was
completed, it was determined that the data from two schools would
necessitate disqualification. School 2 did not use the online student
information system, and therefore, no parent access data was available.
School 8 had data that became corrupt upon export from the EduLink
OnLine System. Before this was discovered, the data had been overwritten
with current year data, and therefore, the data needed for this study was
not retrievable for a second export. As a result, both school 2 and school 8
were disqualified, and their data was eliminated from the final data set.
Research Design
This study was an evaluation study that used demographic and
parental-use data to explore the relationships with student unexcused
absences and the first-year impact of an online student information system.
Conceptually broad in its design, this study created a foundation in the
80