Despite most schools across the country having almost completely returned to standard procedure following the years-long Chinese Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, one leftover effect not only persists, but continues to get worse: Student absenteeism.
As Axios reports, roughly 30% of all students in the United States were chronically absent in the 2021-2022 academic year. This amounts to roughly 14.7 million students, each of whom missed at least 10% or more of the school year.
Such absences were more pronounced in low-income schools, with 70% of such schools suffering chronic absenteeism in 2021-2022. In the previous academic year, that total was a mere 25%. Overall, 66% of students attended a school with high levels of chronic absence in the most recent school year.
The epidemic of absence is likely to contribute to learning disparities and educational regression that have also persisted since COVID, with such chronically absent students less likely to be able to read at a grade level by the end of third grade. These students are also more likely to suffer behavioral issues in middle school, and more likely to drop out of high school.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, just 7% of schools had student bodies where 30% or more were chronically absent. In the 2021-2022 year, that number spiked from 7% to 38%.
The absence rates are separate from the number of students who simply stopped attending school and never returned, which has amounted to hundreds of thousands of students across the country. Some of these students may be the ones who were switched to homeschooling by their parents, while others may have simply left school altogether.
Hedy Chang, the executive director of Attendance Works, warned that “If you don’t address [absenteeism] then, the problems typically get more challenging as the kid gets older and they fall further behind, or the routine doesn’t become part of what they know how to do.”