Far too many young people are frequently absent from school leading to significant short and long-term consequences. Children who are consistently absent are more likely to fall behind in school, drop out, and have poorer health outcomes. Acute illnesses such as colds, flus or injuries; chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes; dental problems; behavioral health problems; and exposure to violence and trauma can keep children out of school for short periods of time with chronic regularity or for extended periods.
School-based health centers (SBHCs) help address these concerns and minimize school tardiness, absences, and early dismissals by providing health services on or near school campuses. Without accessible health services, students may be sent home rather than having their health issues addressed in real-time and being sent back to class. Early dismissals mean missed classroom instruction time or “seat time” for students and, in some states, can even mean a loss of funds for the school.
Seat time refers to the time that students are seated in the classroom and can be measured three ways:
- The percent of SBHC visits that result in sending students back to class rather than to their homes or a hospital, emergency room, or external health care provider.
- The total hours of the remaining school day students save once they are sent back to class after visiting the SBHC.
- The average time of a visit to the SBHC versus the amount of time it would take students to seek care from an external health care provider.
The Alliance has developed a comprehensive guide and data collection template to support SBHC providers as they demonstrate the value of the SBHC model to health and education systems by documenting and reporting classroom seat time saved.
Case Example 1: NC SBHCs documented seat time data and results were positively received by health and education stakeholders
In North Carolina, staff from ten SBHCs collected seat time data for a two-week period. The results were compelling: students were sent back to class rather than to their homes or to outside providers in 96% of the recorded SBHC visits. This saved each student an average of three hours and 45 minutes of classroom instruction time on the day of their SBHC visits. As part of their advocacy and fundraising efforts, SBHC staff used these data to show their local school boards how SBHCs contribute to the academic environments of schools in their districts. One SBHC administrator explained, “The seat time data highlight the potential impact of SBHCs on educational outcomes. Seat time in school increases educational time — and preserving educational time enhances students’ opportunities for academic success. The seat time data tell a useful story at both the county and state levels, and can be used for advocacy efforts targeted at educators, legislators, and funders of SBHC work.”
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are some promising strategies my SBHC can implement to document seat time saved?
- Review this guide with your SBHC program staff and develop a plan for how you will document these data.
- Craft a paper log or add fields to your EHR to document these key data points: time in/out, reason for the visit, and client disposition. Encourage your SBHC program staff to document this information for each visit during a designated time period. Even a short data collection period (e.g., two weeks) can be useful to extrapolate how much seat time is saved on average throughout the school year!