School Absenteeism: Universal Problem Seeks Gold Standard Solutions

12 - 16 March 2018

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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Aim & Description

School absenteeism is a universal problem. It negatively impacts youth, families, schools, and the

broader community. We – educators, practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers – need to be

able to efficiently and reliably determine whether a youth’s absenteeism is problematic and

warranting intervention. We also need to know which procedures and instruments are most

helpful for identifying youth, families, schools, and communities in need of intervention.

This workshop brings together 25 international academics and practitioners focused on the

thorny problem of school absenteeism. Their expertise spans education, youth development,

social work, sociology, psychology, and psychiatry. Participants contribute short presentations

aimed at facilitating discussion during focus groups and plenary discussion sessions. The

discussions are geared towards the main aim: consensus on best practices for conceptualizing

school attendance problems (SAPs) and identifying at-risk youth. Towards the end of the

workshop an International Task Force will be established to steer the evolution, evaluation, and

dissemination of interventions for SAPs, including conferences and special issues in scientific


The title of the workshop (School Absenteeism: Universal Problem Seeks Gold Standard Solutions)

is not intended to imply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to understanding and responding to

absenteeism. Rather, it signals our intention as the Scientific Organizing Committee that we work

towards a shared vision for this complex field. In particular, we believe that a shared approach to

operationalizing attendance problems will benefit the identification of these problems. Similarly,

we believe that a shared approach to differentiating among school attendance problems will

benefit intervention for these problems. Our motto is: operationalization to support identification,

differentiation to support intervention. Intervention is not the focus of this workshop, but we

believe the outcomes of the workshop will support subsequent initiatives that address the

evolution, evaluation, and dissemination of interventions.

The workshop program includes plenty of time to engage in discussion and reach conclusions that

are relevant for: (1) preparation of a ‘position paper’ on the conceptualization of SAPs (Day 4 of

the program); and (2) synthesis of ‘best practices’ for identifying SAPs (Day 5 of the program). It is

not anticipated that the position paper will be ready for submission by the end of the workshop,

but that there will be a substantial basis for the paper. Naturally, all participants at the workshop

are welcome to be co-authors on the ‘position paper’ and the ‘best practices’ policy/paper. It will

be a challenging endeavor, to reflect upon the many issues relevant to the operationalization,

differentiation, and identification of school attendance problems. It will also be exciting to see

which conclusions we reach, in an effort to advance research and practice in this field.


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