Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

69P Improving School Attendance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Indicated Attendance Interventions

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Brandy R. Maynard, PhD, IES Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Absenteeism, also referred to as school refusal and truancy, has been linked to negative and far-reaching consequences for youth, families, schools and communities. Despite increased attention, research and federal funding, truancy rates in the US have increased over the past 15 years. Although a number of qualitative reviews of attendance interventions have attempted to summarize the extant research, there are a number of limitations to utilizing qualitative methods to synthesize and evaluate the effectiveness of intervention research.

The main objectives of this study were to systematically and quantitatively synthesize attendance intervention research to provide a comprehensive picture of interventions being utilized; examine effects of interventions on school attendance; and identify gaps and deficiencies in the evidence base to better inform practice and policy.


Systematic review methods and meta-analysis, following Campbell Collaboration's guidelines, were utilized to quantitatively synthesize and systematically examine the effects of indicated interventions on school attendance. The comprehensive search and selection strategy identified 33 eligible studies reporting on 35 independent samples for inclusion: 9 randomized studies, 11 quasi-experimental studies and 13 single group pre-post test studies. All eligible studies were coded using a structured instrument, with 20% randomly selected to be double coded.

Descriptive analysis was conducted to examine and describe the characteristics of the included studies. The standard mean difference effect size statistic corrected for small sample size (Hedges' g) was utilized to calculate effect sizes. Homogeneity analysis (Q-test), to compare the observed variance to what would be expected from sampling error, and moderator analyses, utilizing the Analog to the Analysis of Variance, were conducted utilizing Comprehensive Meta-Analysis 2.0.


Interventions included in this meta-analysis were found to demonstrate a moderate, positive effect on attendance. The mean effect size of interventions examined in the randomized/quasi-experimental studies was .47 and in the single group pre-post studies was .60. The overall mean effect size, however, was masked by a significant amount of heterogeneity, indicating that different studies point to somewhat different conclusions. Moderator analyses revealed study, participant and intervention characteristics as moderating variables. A descriptive summary of included studies and meta-analytic results, including moderator analyses, will be presented.


This study, the first quantitative synthesis of indicated attendance interventions, provides a comprehensive picture of indicated attendance interventions. The findings from this study suggest that students with attendance problems benefit from interventions targeting attendance behaviors, thus it is important and worthwhile for social workers to intervene with absentee youth. Some interventions were found to be more effective than others and some popular beliefs about what works were not supported by the evidence found in this study. Although interventions included in this study were found to positively impact attendance, mean rates of absenteeism at post-test remained above acceptable levels in most studies. This finding indicates the need for additional work and research. This study also uncovered significant deficiencies and gaps in the evidence base which have implications for practice, policy and research. Recommendations to guide social work practice, policy and research are provided.