June 22, 2024

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

2 min read

Teachers might be saying “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” more these days as school absences rise nationwide.

The proportion of students who go to schools with high or extreme levels of chronic absenteeism jumped from 26% in the 2017-2018 school year to 66% in 2021-22 school year, according to an analysis of government data from Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and Attendance Works. It’s not just one day of pretending to be sick while watching Judge Judy; to be considered chronically absent, a student has to miss at least 10% of school days. During the most recent surveyed year, about 14.7 million students (or 29.7%) fell into this category. 

Pre-pandemic, absenteeism issues were largely based in high school, but this new research shows the crisis is now hitting elementary and middle schools—evidence of the pandemic’s toll on the school system, if you ask Hedy N. Chang, executive director at Attendance Works. It’s “a sign that the positive conditions of learning, that are critical to motivating students to attend, have been eroded at school,” Chang tells Fortune

COVID was the last crack in a broken system

Indeed, the education sector is feeling the ripple effects from underpaying and overworking its employees. Dealing with remote teaching and a high cost of living on staggeringly low pay prompted many burned out teachers to quit, fueling a teacher shortage. Replacing them has been difficult; some school districts have even turned to the National Guard to fill in the gaps. While those who remain are trying to help, everyone from bus drivers to first grade teachers remain underpaid and stressed out.

“I’m seeing more educators, especially the younger ones, coming in and saying, ‘I’m not willing to put up with this,’” Joshua Morgan, a former teacher at a rural district, told The Associated Press. It’s gotten to the point where many teachers are priced out of living near the district where they teach…

Chloe Berger

2023-11-18 08:00:00

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