A third of public school children were chronically absent after classrooms re-opened, advocacy group says

A national group that seeks to curb student absenteeism is sounding an alarm after finding that the number of chronically absent students continued to surge even as pandemic closings abated. 

The organization, Attendance Works, believes that the number of students missing at least 18 days* of school a year doubled to 16 million in 2021-22 from 8 million students before the pandemic. If correct, this means that one out of every three public school children was chronically absent during the second full school year of the pandemic, when most children were learning in person and should have been catching up from the disrupted year of 2020 and the first half of 2021. Before the pandemic, only about 16 percent of U.S. school children were chronically absent. 

“One out of three kids is a lot,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. She called the absenteeism rate “alarming.” While COVID quarantines explained some of the extra absences, Chang said, many children and teens skipped additional days, as social connections with teachers and classmates frayed after prolonged pandemic-related absences. 

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