The pandemic triggered a crisis for American students who missed many days of school, affecting their academic achievement, and their social relationships. The latest statistics show that the trend has not fully recovered.
According to DNyuz, far more students are still missing days of school compared to before the pandemic. Nearly 70% of the highest poverty schools experienced widespread, chronic absenteeism in the 2021-2022 school year, compared with 25% before COVID-19 struck..
In the schools surveyed, about a third or more of the students were chronically absent, defined as missing at least 10% of the school year, or about two days of school each month, says DNyuz. The new findings were released last week by Attendance Works, a nonprofit that aims to reduce chronic absenteeism, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, which focuses on high school graduation preparedness.
“Prior to the pandemic, going to school every day was still the norm,” said Hedy Chang, the executive director of Attendance Works. The organization said that chronic absence more than doubled during the pandemic from the more than 8 million students, pre-COVID-19, who were missing so many days at school that they were academically at risk.
Even in the more affluent schools, chronic absenteeism increased to 14% of schools, up from 3% before the pandemic. Some states, like Ohio, have seen an improvement in regular scholastic attendance than in other parts of the country. Other states like California and New Mexico, still have double the rate of chronic absenteeism than before the pandemic.
Experts say that regular school attendance is important on many planes. The most obvious is that students won’t learn if they are not in school and can’t take advantage of interventions such as tutoring. Widespread absenteeism hurts the entire student body, even affecting those who attend regularly. The pandemic disrupted relationships between students, and students with their teachers, many of whom are suffering from burn out and leaving their profession.
Chronic absenteeism also gives rise to student anxiety, as the pandemic set students back academically. Other factors, such as family instability and an increase in school suspensions may be factors in the current chronic absenteeism. The challenge for schools will be to re-establish daily attendance habits.
“It’s a little bit chicken and egg,” said Chang. “When you have extreme levels of chronic absence, it makes it harder to create meaningful relationships with kids. It also reflects the lack of meaningful relationships with kids.”
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