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Students Experiencing Chronic Absence Prior to the Pandemic Likely to Face Instructional Loss Today

February 11, 2021

One out of 6 students were chronically absent before the pandemic, and the country is likely to see a dramatic increase in chronic absence in the current school year, especially for the student groups hardest hit by Covid-19, according to a new report from Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduate Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education

Connecticut, which has been a leader in addressing chronic absence, is the first state to collect, analyze and publish data for the current school year. It has seen chronic absence jump from 17.2% to 35.2% for English-learners, and rise from 20.3% to 34.9% for students eligible for free meals.

These figures suggest that absenteeism could increase substantially in the current school year, given the impact of health and economic challenges created by the pandemic and the difficulties of maintaining student engagement during distance learning. With this in mind, it is more urgent than ever to address chronic absenteeism.

The Using Chronic Absence to Map Interrupted Schooling, Instructional Loss and Educational Inequity report, released on February 2, 2021, builds on the 2017-18 school year data released in October 2020 from the U.S. Department of Education’s EDFacts initiative.

These metrics offer critical insights into which student groups, schools and districts are likely to need additional support to recover from the effects of the pandemic. Individual state chronic absence reports, and an updated interactive map, produced by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, makes it easy to see the districts and schools most affected by chronic absence.

Beyond an in-depth analysis of the 2017-18 chronic absence data, the report lays out key recommendations that school districts and states can take to turn around low attendance during the pandemic.

State and local leaders need to know the size of their chronic absence problem to understand how to improve educational outcomes. Start today by checking out the report!

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