America’s public schools are on their last legs as ‘chronic absenteeism’ rises

Teachers could be saying “Bull? Bueller? Bueller? more these days as school absences increase across the country.

The proportion of students who attend schools with high or extreme levels of chronic absenteeism increased from 26% in the 2017-2018 school year to 66% in the 2021-22 school year, according to a report. analysis government data from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Attendance Works. It’s not just a day where we pretend to be sick and watch Judge Judy; to be considered chronically absent, a student must miss at least 10% of school days. In the most recent survey year, approximately 14.7 million students (or 29.7%) fell into this category.

Before the pandemic, truancy problems were largely localized to high school, but this new research shows that the crisis is now hitting primary and secondary schools – proof of the pandemic’s toll on the school system, if you ask Hedy N. Chang, executive director of Attendance. Works. This is “a sign that positive learning conditions, which are essential for motivating students to attend school, have been eroded at school,” says Chang. Fortune.

COVID was the final crack in a failing system

Indeed, the education sector is feeling the ripple effects of underpaid And overwork its employees. Coping with distance learning and the high cost of living incredibly low paying encouraged many burned teachers to resign, fueling a teacher shortage. Replacing them was difficult; some school districts have even turned to National Guard to fill the gaps. While those left behind try to help, everyone bus drivers First-year teachers remain underpaid and stressed.

“I’m seeing more and more educators, especially younger ones, coming in and saying, ‘I’m not prepared to put up with this,'” said Joshua Morgan, a former teacher in a rural district. The Associated Press. We have gotten to the point where many teachers can no longer live near the district where they teach because they cannot afford to navigate a difficult housing market.

It’s a crisis that’s been looming for years, as teachers struggle to make ends meet and increasingly find themselves at the forefront of other national issues like gun safety And censorship regarding LGBTQ+ rights and critical race theory. The pandemic has only further pushed a system that was already at its breaking point.

“So many [our system] is held together with tape and glue. When you have a scenario like COVID that actually threatens the stability of even a well-functioning district, of course we’re going to see disproportionate impacts on districts that were already on the precipice of insolvency and instability for start”, Jess Gartnerfounder of Allovue, an education finance technology company, said Atlantic.

More funding for stronger relationships

THE lack of investment in public schools and the shortage of educators have created an educational system in decline. Test results suffered in part as school districts struggled to rebound from learning disruptions during the 2000s. distance education while addressing teacher and staff development issues, according to a study of the Center for Reinventing Public Education. And students missed school at record rates since reopening during the pandemic.

Data from Johns Hopkins University and Attendance Works are just the latest research on falling school attendance. Thomas Dee, professor of education at Stanford University and Associated Press compiled data which found that approximately 6.5 million additional students became chronically absent.

And some students have left the public school system altogether: K-12 enrollment has plummeted 1.2 million students During the 2021-2022 school year, distinct searches were seen, particularly among kindergarten students and isolated schools (some of these children turned to private schools or home schooling instead).

To address chronic absenteeism, the educational experience itself needs more funding, Chang says. “We need investments and targeted efforts to strengthen the foundational building blocks that all students have that enable them to feel physically and emotionally healthy and safe at school, as well as a sense of “belonging and support,” she explains.

This means supporting schools so they can help meet the basic needs of their students and families, she adds. But the key may lie in building strong relationships between teachers and their students, she said, but that’s difficult to achieve given high turnover and already overworked educators.

“Whenever I speak with a district that is making progress in reducing chronic absenteeism, the most common feature I hear about is that they are using relationship building,” says Chang, who explains that these relationships can help motivate students or families who need help sharing. their obstacles to accessing school. But at the same time, “building relationships also requires investing in the adults working in schools.”

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