Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere

​Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere

By Sarah Mervosh and Francesca Paris 
The New York Times
9 min
March 29, 2024

The article highlights a significant and persistent challenge in U.S. education since the pandemic: the sharp increase in student absenteeism across various demographics. Before the pandemic, an estimated 15% of public school students were considered chronically absent, a figure that has risen to 26% based on recent data from 40 states and Washington D.C., as compiled by the American Enterprise Institute. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% of the school year for any reason, translating to about 18 days.

The issue of absenteeism transcends socioeconomic boundaries, affecting both affluent and working-class communities. In Anchorage, affluent families have been taking their children on lengthy vacations, assuming online schooling can fill the gap. Meanwhile, in Michigan, schools have been creatively attempting to boost attendance through initiatives like pajama day. Across the board, students experiencing heightened anxiety are choosing to stay home rather than face the classroom environment.

This nationwide problem has implications beyond immediate attendance figures, directly impacting the nation's recovery from pandemic-induced learning losses. The absence of students not only hinders their individual learning but also affects the entire classroom dynamic, forcing teachers to adjust their strategies and pace.

The reasons behind increased absenteeism are multifaceted. For some, the transition to remote learning during the pandemic has led to a shift in how families perceive school attendance. In Anchorage, some students miss school for family vacations, while in other areas, responsibilities like caring for younger siblings or the lack of transportation contribute to absences. Moreover, the mental health crisis among students has exacerbated the issue, with increased anxiety and depression leading to more days missed.

Efforts to address absenteeism have been varied and widespread, from implementing one-on-one coaching for behavioral issues to home visit programs aiming to forge stronger relationships between schools and families. Despite these efforts, meaningful change remains elusive, indicating that absenteeism might reflect broader shifts in societal norms post-pandemic.

Educators are encouraged to recognize the complexity of the absenteeism crisis and consider a variety of strategies to engage students and families. Building strong, supportive relationships and creating a school environment that students feel drawn to are essential steps in addressing this challenge. The article underscores the importance of a concerted effort among educators, families, and communities to combat the rising tide of absenteeism and its long-term implications for students' academic and personal development.

Source: [Nat Malkus, American Enterprise Institute](https://www.aei.org/)

Original Article

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/03/29/us/chronic-absences....

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Prepared with the assistance of AI software

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

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