Report: Nearly 50% of school teachers had enrolled students who never attended class in 2020-21

Just over 48% of surveyed K-12 public school teachers nationwide said they had at least one enrolled student who did not show up for classes at all during the 2020-2021 academic year.

The data is drawn from a recently released survey facilitated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, with the goal of measuring the ongoing impact of covid-19 on student access and performance. More than 2,800 teachers participated in the survey, which also revealed startling socioeconomic trends among the student absences.

  • Nearly half of public school teachers had students who were registered but never showed up
  • Students who never showed up came mostly from majority non-White and urban schools
  • Obstacles such as limited support or no adult assistance at home kept students from showing up
  • For older students, caring for a family member or working were major obstacles to showing up

According to the report, high school teachers reported the highest occurrences of unaccounted for students (65%) compared to 45% of teachers in grades 3 through 8 or kindergarten through grade 2 (31%).

In Ohio, concerns over absenteeism have raised anxiety about the prospect of falling graduation rates.

That means students who aren’t attending fall further and further behind, said Elizabeth Lolli, Dayton Public Schools superintendent. Teachers can hold students after class to help them, she said, but often that doesn’t make up for missing the discussion the class had and the original lesson.

“It interrupts your learning and causes you to fall further behind,” Lolli said. “In the end, when you fall behind, it’s much, much harder to catch up.

Dayton Daily News

Districts nationwide have made student absenteeism a priority at school levels. In Richmond, Va., leaders are incorporating data into the strategy to encourage family support of school attendance.

The rate of absenteeism peaked in January after the end of the first semester, with over a third of all students missing more than 10 percent of school days. But the rate now appears to be trending down, and Dr. Shadae Harris, Chief Engagement Officer at RPS, argued that’s a result of the division’s data-driven approach.

“This data has allowed us to make really specific goals for each and every school,” she said at a school board meeting on Monday, March 21.

Nicole Jones, a school board member of the 9th District, praised Harris’s efforts, but said the division would need to remain focused to achieve pre-pandemic absenteeism rates.

“We can collect data all day long and then some,” she said. “However, if we don’t have a place to address it, it’s just data.”

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