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Since the onset of the pandemic, chronic absence from K-12 schools has increased dramatically in every state. Often, the rate doubled: for instance, 12.1 percent to 30 percent in California, 12.9 to 27.7 percent in Massachusetts, 19.7 percent to 38.5 percent in Michigan, and 13.1 percent to 28 percent in Mississippi between school years 2018–19 and 2021–22. Although many hoped attendance would quickly return to pre-pandemic levels once students emerged from quarantined, early data for 2022–23 are disheartening. Chronic absence has remained persistently high—at 24.5 percent in Massachusetts, for example, as of March 2023.

Monitoring chronic absence by grade, student populations, school, district, and geography is crucial to learning recovery and addressing the inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. Chronic absence and other types of attendance data can help identify where more engagement and support are needed as well as illuminate policies and practices that are yielding better outcomes.

Chronic Absence: A Call for Deeper Student and Family Engagement

Also In this Issue

Getting Students Engaged in Learning

By Jennifer A. Fredricks

Targeted interventions and savvy classroom practices, coupled with supportive state policy, can draw disengaged students back in.

Centering School Connectedness

By Robert Balfanz

High schools are creating student success teams that prioritize relationships and leverage actionable data to reconnect students to school.

Chronic Absence: A Call for Deeper Student and Family Engagement

By Hedy Chang

Connecticut's experience underscores the value of a positive, systemic approach to improving attendance.

Understanding Who Is Missing and Why

By Hailly T.N. Korman

The pandemic only magnified chronic absence among students with the greatest needs and made the problem harder to ignore.

How State Leaders Can Stand Up for the COVID Generation of High Schoolers

By Robin Lake and Travis Pillow

Families need better data on students' academic progress; students need meaningful learning experiences and better information on postsecondary options.

Reengaging High School Students through Career Academies

By Edward C. Fletcher Jr.

When built around four key elements, academies deliver rigorous, relevant learning tied to students' career aspirations.

Trauma-Informed Practices: A Whole-School Policy Framework

By Janet VanLone and Nicole Reddig

State leaders can ensure that more school staff are equipped to help children deal with the effects of trauma.

Featured Items

Engaging All Students

Authors explore the reasons why students increasingly feel uninspired and disengaged at school and outline steps state leaders can take to help schools and districts increase students’ engagement and connectedness.
Image Credit: iStock i

Beyond Testing for Lead in Drinking Water: Implications for Funding

While most states encourage or require schools to test for lead in drinking water, funding to sustain remediation lags—despite significant federal grants designed to boost those efforts.

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