Remote learning has set students back in many places, according to studies. Although kids are back in school, many aren't showing up to class.
Hedy Chang is the founder of Attendance Works which promotes solutions for absenteeism and said a poor school climate can be to blame. Things like an unwelcoming atmosphere, poor connections with teachers, and a curriculum that just isn't challenging enough, Chang said.
“And those are things like you're ill, you have family responsibilities, poor transport transportation, trauma, housing, food insecurity and then it's also connected to aversion,” Chang said.
Chang said she also sees misconceptions from families about how much school is too much to miss.
Chronic absence is defined by most states as missing 10 percent of school days in a year. The most recent analysis comes from consulting firm McKinsey and Company which found from December 2020-21, 22% of students were chronically absent from school, more than double the rate before the pandemic.
The New York Times found numbers as high as 40% at one middle school in Connecticut this year.
Some K-12 schools have resorted to offering night classes to allow students a more flexible schedule. Others are offering gift cards to families for groceries and gas so it’s easier for parents struggling to get kids to school.
“Making sure that there are ways for families to facilitate learning at home, making sure that there's enrichment activities at school. These are these positive, these key building blocks that promote engagement,” Chang said. “They're not necessarily about attendance per se, but when they exist, attendance is better.”
The problem now is many enrichment programs have gone away. Attendance Works offers resources for families and schools on how to rebuild those connections.