A big media splash occurred yesterday with the release of new study documenting a huge upswing in chronic absenteeism among students since the pandemic began.
Though it only focuses on the 2021-22 school year, I don’t think anyone believes it got any better during the last school year. In fact, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it got worse.
You can read the entire study by Thomas Dee, Higher Chronic Absenteeism Threatens Academic Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
You can read the Associated Press’ special report, Millions of kids are missing weeks of school as attendance tanks across the US.
And Ed Source focuses on what the report says about California in The post-pandemic jump in students missing school.
Clearly, increased absenteeism is a big problem. I think some of the reasons behind it, which don’t seem to appear in the report (or, if they do, I just missed it), include students getting more responsibilities during the pandemic (work to contribute to family income, child care, elder care) and they and/or their families reluctance to have them give those up, and students just getting out of the habit of going to school each day (which makes it easier for them to decide to attend if they don’t feel like it sometimes). I also think a fair amount of teachers may not have adjusted to some of these new realities and have tried to just teach the same way they did pre-pandemic, which makes school less enticing (see Not Great Quote Of The Day: High School Students Not Excited About School).
The study suggests that mental health issues and academic disengagement are two big reasons for absenteeism, and suggests that schools emphasize more culturally responsive teaching, become more of a social services hub (like community schools), and communicate more with parents as ways to combat the problem.
I’ve been sounding like a broken record suggesting that schools be given monies from their districts to hire local residents familiar with school communities so they can act as outreach workers to families. This is in contrast to how many districts, including our own, have centralized the absentee outreach process.
Those pundits and researchers beating up schools for our supposed lack of “urgency” in combating “learning loss” might want to remember these absenteeism numbers before they trash us again.
It’s not easy to accelerate learning when a fair number of students are absent each day.
I’m adding this post to The Best Resources On Student Absenteeism.