Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bryan Meadows, Ph.D.


chronic absenteeism, English learners, student voice, ELs, attendance, ESSA


Chronic absenteeism has significant implications for both the individual student and society at large and has been receiving attention for over a century. Every school day counts. Regular attendance provides students with opportunities to learn and has a strong link to achievement. Conversely, poor attendance has serious implications for high school students. For each subgroup of students there is a similar pattern: the likelihood of chronic absenteeism increases as students progress through high school. Notably, the U.S. Department of Education found English learners experience higher chronic absenteeism than their non-English learner peers when they reach high school. Furthermore, compared to their white peers, Hispanic students were found to be 17 percent more likely to lose three weeks of school or more.

This dissertation was designed to determine barriers to attendance for suburban New Jersey high school English learners who have been identified as chronically absent. The focus of this qualitative case study was on the importance of understanding high school English learners’ chronic absenteeism from their perspective. While views about the place of young people in schools and society have changed over the past few years, student voice is noticeably absent from the discussion about chronic absenteeism at the state and district level. Specific studies of high school English learners’ experiences related to their chronic absenteeism do not exist. There is an abundance of research on student attendance and its impact on student achievement, but little research exists on high school English learners’ views regarding barriers to attendance. By taking student voice into account when addressing chronic absenteeism, there is a possibility for school leaders to combat chronic absenteeism with policies and programs that address student barriers to attendance.

A qualitative research design was conducted by examining the experiences of student and school personnel, as well as the practices and policies, being implemented to combat the issue. The case study focused on understanding individual perspectives to identify themes and patterns related to student barriers to attendance. In the context of exploring student voice related to English learners’ chronic absenteeism, the research design focused on understanding strategies for improved attendance with particular interest on how school personnel were engaged in using specific strategies. Through the collection of interview, documentation, and observational data, a detailed conceptual theory for guiding interventions within the field of education related to chronic absenteeism. A constant comparative analysis of the data revealed the emergence of several themes and patterns. The findings reflect commonalities in the themes of family influences, financial pressures, transportation issues, immigration concerns, academic challenges as English learners, and some notable experiences, if not widely spread. Interviews with school personnel also elicited ideas about how to combat chronic absenteeism at the high school by building relationships with students, families, and stakeholders.

Keywords: chronic absenteeism, English learners, student voice, ESSA, attendance