Students who have more “familiar faces” at school are less likely to be chronically absent, according to a new study from the University of California-Santa Barbara published in The Elementary School Journal.
School attendance is linked to higher rates of achievement — a factor that makes stability and, therefore, consistent classmates (i.e., familiar faces) a more urgent goal for schools.
Study authors Jacob Kirksey and Michael Gottfried write that "mere exposure" to classmates in previous years can increase students' comfort levels in school due to there being a certain level of familiarity already developed.
“If classrooms maintain some degree of stability for students in their day-to-day learning context by having a percentage of familiar faces, then students may be less likely to be absent from school as a result of anxiety or disengagement,” they continued.
The study’s findings highlight some of the issues that can arise from too many school options with school choice. Should a family find an issue with a school, they can opt out and find a different school versus sticking around to find some sort of solution. This reality can create instability with long-term impact on a child’s comfort in a school, as well as attendance.
The study was published weeks after Chalkbeat published its own investigation into high student turnover in Detroit, where nearly 60% of school ages kids were enrolled in two or more schools during a recent school year. The results? Declining academic performances, Chalkbeat found.
“That, too, could be in part because a new school means few familiar faces for students,” the website noted in its recap of the investigation and how it could parallel the study.