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Schools Face Catastrophic Truancy Problems Post Pandemic

Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2024
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by AMAC Newsline
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20 Comments

AMAC EXCLUSIVE

Empty school classroom

While COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures are now thankfully in the rearview mirror, students and families are still dealing with the fallout from the decision to keep kids at home for what was in many cases nearly two years. One of the most glaring issues that lawmakers are becoming increasingly desperate to address is that many students now simply aren’t showing up to class at all.

According to U.S. Department of Education data, chronic absenteeism (defined as missing ten percent or more of the school year) has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic.

In some cities and states, the numbers are even more stark. In California, for instance, the chronic absenteeism rate has skyrocketed to 30 percent from 12 percent pre-pandemic.

In New Mexico, 40 percent of students are now considered chronically absent, compared to 18 percent before the pandemic.

In New York City, the nation’s largest school district, chronic absenteeism hit 40 percent during the 2021-2022 school year – translating to roughly 375,000 students.

In Detroit, 77 percent of students were chronically absent during the 2021-2022 school year.

According to a recent report from Axios, a shocking 60 percent of high school students in Washington, D.C. were marked chronically absent during the 2022-2023 school year. That figure represents a nine percent increase from before the pandemic and a four percent increase from the 2021-2022 school year. This finding also comes after the city changed its policy to allow students to miss up to 40 percent of the school day and still not be considered absent.

Unsurprisingly, students who are chronically absent are significantly more likely to receive poor grades, not graduate, and end up in trouble with the law. A University of Chicago study has found that for each week of school, a ninth-grade student misses, he or she is 20 percent more likely to not earn a high school diploma. Conversely, students who go on to attend college have an average attendance rate of 98 percent.

According to a 2008 report from Columbia University, students who are chronically absent in earlier grades also show lower achievement throughout their academic career, even if they begin attending school more regularly later on. In other words, students who fall behind as early as kindergarten are unlikely to ever catch up.

The rise in chronic absenteeism has also gone hand-in-hand with a nationwide decline in standardized test performance. Student scores plunged nine points in math and four points in reading according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tested seventh graders during the 2022-2023 school year.

Amid this escalating crisis, state legislatures are looking for anything to get kids back in classrooms.

In Wisconsin, the Republican-led general assembly passed a bill in February that would prohibit schools from advancing a student to the next grade if he or she misses more than 30 days in a school year. Another bill before the assembly would require schools to keep the state Department of Education updated about truancy statistics.

In Ohio, where 31 percent of students were chronically absent during the 2022-2023 school year, lawmakers are considering a bipartisan bill that would actually pay students to attend school. HB 348 would start a pilot program in one urban school district and one rural school district whereby parents of kindergarten students would receive $50 per month, totaling $500 for the whole year if their child is present for at least 90 percent of all school days.

Ninth-grade students, meanwhile, would receive direct payments of $50 for meeting the attendance requirement. Students from select schools would also receive $250 for graduating, and up to $750 for graduating with a high GPA. If the experiment is successful, it could be expanded to the entire state.

However, not everyone is on board with the pilot program, which has a price tag of $1.5 million. “You already pay taxes to provide a free education to those children,” Republican state Rep. Josh Williams has said of the bill. “But now you’re going to actually pay a parent next door, out of your pocket, to make sure their kids get up and get on a school bus.”

While lawmakers don’t all agree on the best solution, there is a growing consensus that the problem of chronic absenteeism is one that states and schools urgently need to address. With student attendance and performance metrics still moving in the wrong direction more than two years after the end of COVID lockdowns, the country can’t afford to let more students fall behind.

Andrew Shirley is a veteran speechwriter and AMAC Newsline columnist. His commentary can be found on X at @AA_Shirley.

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Paul Hines
Paul Hines
1 month ago

Absolutely ridiculous. So we’re considering institutionalized bribery; what could possibly go wrong?! Instead of “paying” students to attend school, their parents or guardians should be fined for each day students are absent. Start impacting the parents/guardians bottom lines.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
1 month ago

Why go to school when all I have to do is “tick a box” on the DEI hire? Besides, who needs math, English, or job skills? I’m waiting on a sports scholarship to a Big 10 school. But I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket! If that falls through, I can make a successful career in crime. America, what a land of opportunity!

JHolland
JHolland
1 month ago

This is proof that we need to elimint the department of education. Cardona is a total failure.Education should be run by the States and every state should offer vouchers for school choice. Teachers unions should be banned.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 month ago

Seriously: Maybe the chronically truant students have better things to do than go to school.
So, there’s a question: What are these kids doing with their time?
Basically, the problem may not be truancy per se but the fact that the entire industrial-education complex is entirely perverted and compromised.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Now the taxpayer is going to pay for bribes to parents to send their kids to school? I thought that was already mandated by law? America already scores the lowest compared to all other schools in the World and yet Bidum in his “SOTU campaign speech” called for a raise for all teachers. That is also a bribe! Bidum would illegally raise teachers pay (don’t ask how) so the Teacher’s Union will donate more millions to his campaign, which must also be illegal. It’s called bribery and extortion! Since school test scores are so low, teacher salaries should be cut, except for teachers whose students excel!

MamaBear007
MamaBear007
1 month ago

Let me get this straight. During the pandemic we taught kids that school was not important by making them stay home. Now we want to drive home that lesson by teaching them that the only reason school is important is if they get money for going??? What could possibly go wrong!

KWilk
KWilk
1 month ago

Strangely, one state has a proposal THAT WON’T allow student to advance to the next grade level If they miss more than 30 days in a school year? How about no more than 2 weeks and also report more than that TO CPC..

Lee
Lee
1 month ago

This is just the ‘invisible hand’ at work against a very poor education system. Parents and children are voting with their feet to escape schools that may be hindering rather than aiding their development. Every day not in school is one less day to be dipped in whatever our education elites have dreamed up for our kids. Truants may be the heroes of this story (or at least a little less a victim).

MOcountry
MOcountry
1 month ago

Should (possibly when) the internet and/or cell towers go down in this country, think about how many people of the last couple or so of generations will be totally helpless!! Not a pretty picture.

Gerald
Gerald
1 month ago

Well, here we go again.
Back in the ‘80s, schools started shutting down any time the weather got threatening, now it becomes ok for business and industry to just do the same.
Now we are just letting kids just not show up for school, and the same WILL follow into business and industry.
Just tonight, I stopped by a local shop to do business at 4:00 pm, and the shop was locked-up, with a sign on the door declaring hours of operation from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. It didn’t take very long for the new trend to transfer from truancy at schools, to truancy at work.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

To Reduce Truancy:
Hands on Lessons used
Field trips
AR VR use in classes
Make Learning FUN again
DONT BORE THE STUDENTS

JayMC
JayMC
26 days ago

What percentage of these students have a cell phone? What percentage are allowed to access their social media via a home laptop? What percentage are allowed privileges? What percentage participate in extra curricular activities? What percentage are tasked with extra chores? What percentage are held accountable for their lack of participation?

Carey Farmer
Carey Farmer
1 month ago

Just do what Texas does. Haul the parents of truant schoolchildren into court, and fine them $500 for unexcused absences over 10 per school year.

Centurion
Centurion
1 month ago

The communists want lack downs again. Well, lock down the kids in school.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

American schools are trash factorys. Run by the misfit toy gang. Dei killed public schools destroys childrens innocence. ESL ruins schools for American kids diverting funds to educate the world’s poor instead of our own children. Critical race theory all but garentees my child will have his or her. Actions judged by their skin color. Any parent with a smart phone is smarter than every college professor anyways prove me wrong. All they do is profess bais knowledge. My phone does that one now. Online school works, learning programs, and2 homeschool works. Public school is a toilet and you are a poor person with no class if your child attends in 2024.

Mike
Mike
1 month ago

Wish they would of paid me when I was in school. Any chance of retroactive pay??

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