After COVID, schools are struggling to get students back into the classroom.
Chronic absenteeism was at an all-time high during the 2021-2022 school year. The absences almost doubled compared to the 2017-2018 school year. It was at 50% in 2017-2018 and went up to 66% in 2021-2022. Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses 10% of potential school time or misses more than 15 days of school a year. These students are considered high risk for getting worse grades or missing important lessons which is why this is becoming a big concern for numerous schools in America. Missing school became a trend after the height of COVID seemingly because going back in person became harder for students. Students experienced a home education, and now do not seem to want to go back in person. Students who once had a history of good attendance are now backtracking and missing large numbers of classes.
So how do we fix attendance and what will work for the students? Teachers are already stretched thin because of their low pay, and now students are missing important foundations of of knowledge. This requires teachers to double their work and cover more topics in a year than past years. These gaps in knowledge also make past requirements and expectations for different grade levels irrelevant since teachers are noticing students have insufficient knowledge on topics they should have learned in past grades. Hedy Chang, the executive director of Attendance Works says, “These high levels of chronic absence are suggesting a level of disengagement that we have to address.” Attendance Works is a company that tracks students’ attendance. These absences require help beyond the walls of American schools.
When looking at absenteeism in 2021-22 compared to 2017-18, it is clear just how bad it has become. The 2017-18 school year stayed pretty average with around 30% absenteeism and did not increase or decrease. On the other hand, in the 2021-22 school year, the rate of chronic absence shot up. Students were becoming careless with their absences and nearly half stayed in the danger area. Teachers and mentors are now faced with an important question: how do we re-engage students? There is no clear answer yet or plans to fix this problem and teachers are still searching for how to fix the issue. Schools have started to empathize with students, and are trying to prepare them for the drastic change in their education. Teachers are also looking to build relationships with students so it makes coming to school worth it for students. All we know is students are having a hard time reconnecting to the school experience after the height of COVID. Students are having to be retaught lessons that were briefly, and insufficiently, taught in online classes. Each state is different and each will have its own way of fixing this issue. Now it is time to see if this situation will be fixed and if students will start to reconnect to the learning experience.