The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education dropped a new podcast episode featuring Hedy Chang, Attendance Works executive director.
In the episode, Chronic Absenteeism and Keys to Reengaging Students, (season 2, episode 2), Robert Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center, and Hedy talk about the staggering levels of chronic absenteeism seen in K-12 schools, how the “return to normal” for attendance many expected to see this school year didn’t surface, and how schools and districts can improve attendance by reengaging students and families through universal as well as targeted interventions.
By the end of last school year, chronic absenteeism doubled when compared with pre-pandemic levels, Hedy noted, and the absence rates are highest for students living in low income communities were families have fewer resources and often less time to help their students make up for lost learning opportunities.
In addition, there is troubling new data in a few states showing that more students living in middle income communities are also missing 10% or more days of school. While the reasons for this emerging trend aren’t yet clear, issues including anxiety among students about being behind or returning to the classroom, feeling disconnected from the school community and a sense that school may not be not safe from health perspective could all be reasons, Hedy said.
In addition, this fall hasn’t been the return to school we had all hoped for, Hedy said. There are still a lot of students who are chronically absent, and unless we develop an intentional approach, things are not going to improve, she added.
Efforts to rebuild a community with strong connections to peers and adults at school, as well as improving the positive conditions for learning that support the health and well-being of students and staff will go a long way towards improving attendance and student learning, Hedy and Robert agreed.
The Designing Education podcast, launched in April 2022, features conversations with leaders in education from around the country. In each episode, Robert and his guest discuss bold ideas and research-based strategies for redesigning American education to more effectively engage all students and equip them for the challenges of today’s workplace and world.
Listen to Chronic Absenteeism and Keys to Reengaging Students in the Designing Education podcast.