Title page for ETD etd-03312011-113625

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Thomas, Johanna M
URN etd-03312011-113625
Title An Examination of the Effectiveness of an Early Truancy Intervention for Reducing Chronic Absenteeism Amongst At-Risk Students through the Use of Regression Discontinuity Analysis
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Social Work
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Lemieux, Catherine Committee Chair
Allen, Priscilla Committee Member
Guin, Cecile Committee Member
Molidor, Christian Committee Member
Lee, Matthew Dean's Representative
  • regression discontinuity
  • program evaluation
  • truancy
Date of Defense 2011-02-25
Availability unrestricted
Truancy is a major social problem affecting students, families, schools, and communities in the United States and is associated with low academic achievement, grade retention, and dropout. Truancy is also correlated with other adverse life outcomes including delinquency, substance abuse, and incarceration. Social work best practices literature suggests that truancy interventions should take place before habitual chronic truancy becomes a problem. There are few truancy preventions for elementary-age students that have been empirically assessed. Thus, this study examined the effectiveness of the Truancy Assessment and Service Centers intensive case management intervention for elementary-aged students (N = 700) using a quasi-experimental group design, Regression Discontinuity (RD). This study is the first known application of the RD design for truancy intervention assessment. One year of data previously collected from one urban TASC site in the Deep South was used to investigate whether participation in the truancy case management intervention reduced truancy among participants. Based on a pre-determined cut-off score, approximately half of the sample (n = 331) was assigned to the case management intervention, while the other half received a notification letter and warning. Both groups were monitored for the remainder of the school year. Truancy rates among participants in the control group remained at the pre-intervention levels, while truancy rates among those in the treatment group significantly declined (p < .01). Further, cases in the truancy intervention group that were successfully closed were more likely to show a reduction in truancy than those that were not (p < .001). Moreover, the findings indicated that participants referred to educational and social services were more likely to complete them and were more likely to show positive case outcomes (p. <05). Although the truancy intervention successfully reduced truancy overall, it was less effective with non-White children and with children who had been previously retained. Future resources should be aimed bolstering school social work practice and influencing educational reform at the local, state, and federal levels. Additional well-controlled outcome research is needed to shed light on the components of truancy intervention that are associated with long-term positive outcomes for children.
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