Chronic Absence Plagues Schools After Pandemic

Education and schooling was thrown into complete disarray during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s apparent that some of those effects are long-lasting.

A report recently issued by Attendance Works revealed that as many as two-thirds of all students in America go to a school that has high levels of chronic absence. That’s a significant increase from levels that were reported before the pandemic started.

The group that conducted the study is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to addressing the decline in attendance at schools throughout the U.S. According to the report, during the 2021-2022 school year, 66% of all students went to a school that had either high or extreme levels of chronic absence.

This means that “at least one of five students in their school was missing almost four weeks throughout the school year,” the organization said.

Prior to the pandemic, just 25% of all students who were enrolled attended schools that had those levels of absenteeism.

In addition, national data reveals that almost 14.7 million students were considered chronically absent during that school year. That’s a huge increase of 6.5 million students who missed at least 10% of the regular sessions at school compared to the year before the pandemic began.

As the organization said in a release that accompanied the data:

“Not only is teaching and learning more challenging when large numbers of students are frequently missing class, such elevated levels of chronic absence can easily overwhelm a school’s capacity to respond.”

The organization also reported data early from 11 states for the school year of 2022-23. Those states show that levels of attendance still haven’t returned to where they were prior to the pandemic, and that chronic absenteeism is still extremely high – despite a slight decrease in it from the year before.

While absenteeism has exploded, academic scores in many ways have plummeted ever since the pandemic.

The National Center for Education Statistics’ “Nation’s Report Card,” which was released last year, showed that scores in math were at their lowest levels since back in 1990. Scores in reading, meanwhile, dropped to their lowest levels since back in 2004.

This downward trend has been happening since the pandemic first started in 2020.

The average reading score for students was 256 out of 500 in 2022, compared to 260 three years before that. In math, the average score was 271 out of 500 compared to 280 three years before.
School districts are also being plagued by huge shortages with teachers. Many districts are struggling to fill loads of open positions for teachers, as recently as the last few days before this school year began.

That’s reflected by the National Center for Education Statistics, which released a survey last year that showed that 44% of all public schools in the U.S. reported having either part- or full-time vacancies for teachers.

It also showed that 61% of those schools that said they had at least one vacancy said the pandemic was a main driver for having these open positions.