Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Work

Abstract

The present study utilized systematic review methods and meta-analysis to quantitatively synthesize research and systematically examine the effects of indicated intervention programs on school attendance behaviors of elementary and secondary school students. A comprehensive search strategy resulted in the identification 11 randomized studies, 9 quasi-experimental studies and 13 single group pre-post test studies that met inclusion criteria. Effect sizes data and study, participant, and intervention characteristics were coded and analyzed. Analyses of the randomized and quasi-experimental studies were performed separately from the single group pre-post test studies.

The meta-analytic findings showed overall positive and moderate effects of indicated attendance interventions on attendance outcomes. There was, however, significant heterogeneity found between studies. Moderator analyses were conducted to examine potential variables related to study, participant and intervention characteristics that may explain the variability in effect sizes. Behavioral interventions were found to be more effective than other interventions and, when combined with parental interventions, demonstrated greater effects than behavioral interventions alone. Attendance groups were also found to be effective, especially when combined with attendance monitoring and contracting/awards. Court-based, school-based and clinic-based programs produced similar effects. The available evidence did not support the use of family therapy or mentoring as indicated interventions. The findings of this meta-analysis also did not support the use of multi-modal or collaborative programs over simpler, non-collaborative interventions, even though multi-modal and/or collaborative interventions are often recommended as best practice. Although the interventions demonstrated a moderate mean effect, the mean absence rates at post-test for the majority of the studies remained above 10%; thus it appears that the majority of interventions are falling short in their attempts to improve student attendance to the point of achieving an acceptable level of regular attendance.

In addition to evaluating the effects of interventions, this systematic review and meta-analysis uncovered a number of methodological shortcomings, absence of important variables and data as well as gaps in the evidence base. The author calls for a critical analysis of the practices, assumptions and social-political context underlying the extant evidence base. Implications for practice, policy and research are discussed as well as limitations of the present study.

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