Tardy Troubles

Dr. McGahee’s dissertation focused on the relationship between attendance and academic perfomance


photo by Melina Tripoli

It’s only common sense that, the more a student is absent the more their grades are at risk … but to what extent?

Reese Marsalis, Staff Writer

At the end of the first week of school, the senior and junior classes gathered in the auditorium for the beginning-of-the-year assembly. With a sense of summer still buzzing in the air, many found it difficult to focus on the school rules reminders. Yet when Dr. McGahee took the stage, the student audience promptly pricked up their ears as the Assistant Principal stated, “On average, for every day of school missed, the GPA drops .454.” Faces stared at McGahee in shock, surprise, and possible skepticism.

“I was on the 18-day list last year, and my absences didn’t affect my GPA to that extent,” senior Luci Morris said.

It is no secret that attendance is important, but the drastic drop of .454 sparked conversation among the student body that Friday and throughout the weekend.

Last spring, McGahee finished work on his doctorate in education, officially changing from “Mr.” to “Dr.”  For his dissertation, he chose to focus on student attendance. Experienced in dealing with the problem firsthand, he felt that the potential link between student attendance and achievement was worth exploring.

“I’ve always wanted learning to be relevant,” McGahee said in a recent interview.  “After I became a principal and began pursuing my doctorate, I was asked, ‘What would make you better? What would you like to know more about?’  I said, ‘Attendance.'”

The fact I shared with everyone today was shocking

— Dr. McGahee, Asst. Principal

For his dissertation research, the Assistant Principal focused on the potential relationship between attendance and GPA and Keystone Exam performance.  Focusing on the sophomore class of three high schools of varying sizes in western Pennsylvania, he embarked on a research journey to determine whether a viable link exists. He used a sample size of 3,438 students who were enrolled for the entire academic year, concluding that there is in fact a strong correlation between achievement and attendance.

Most students agree, actually. After all, it’s only common sense that attendance is a factor in academic performance.  But the claim of a GPA drop of .454 struck many in the NASH student body as questionable.

“Since GPA is a full-year thing, I’m not so sure if missing one day would drop it that much,” senior Coco DelVecchio said, “but I definitely think it does result in being behind in class, which is not good.”

On the other hand, Theo Scoumis sided with McGahee’s claim. “I think it’s true,” the senior said. “I think that your GPA does drop to some extent [with every absence] because you miss so much information.”

McGahee’s dissertation states, “The three variables of interest for this study include: number of days absent; student score on a state mandated proficiency exam; and student earned cumulative quality point average”.

After much analysis, he determined that, on average from the sample size, students who miss around nine days of school per year score below average on the Keystones. Essentially, McGahee concluded, attendance is important and it factors heavily into students’ performance in school and on standardized tests.

After the assembly, it came as no surprise to the Assistant Principal that the student body reacted the way they did. “The fact I shared with everyone today was shocking,” he said.

Dr. McGahee’s dissertation can be found below: