Student engagement is the essential component for learning. And class attendance is mandatory for engagement. Unfortunately, the pandemic-induced school closures resulted not only in learning loss, but also another dire consequence when schools reopened. Chronic absenteeism doubled from about 15 percent of students before the pandemic to about 30 percent in the 2021-22 school year.  And the emerging data for the 2022-2023 school year yielded only a minor decrease- 27.8%.  “COVID confirmed for many students that school is a meaningless waste of time.” High absenteeism rates continue among non-native speakers, the disabled, and the poor, ”the same populations that lost the most ground academically during the pandemic.” Predictably, these students lack reading skills, have lower test scores, and (ironically) face out-of-school suspensions. 

States are searching for a variety of methods to confront absenteeism. “These include districts sending robocalls with the voice of an NFL player, educators bribing chronically absent children with rewards if they return to class, and schools activating “attendance clerks” to monitor students and conduct home visits.”  In 2021, a home-visit system in Connecticut (LEAP) began serving 15 districts, which “underscores the value of a positive, systemic approach to improving attendance.”

States have different laws regarding truancy. However, thee laws are ineffective because they are not enforced. Some parents search for meaningful, relevant educational experiences, to re-engage their students with learning. Ultimately, they are the ones responsible to ensure that their children attend school. They must have an open line of communication with school personnel. They need to be responsible adults and authoritative parents!

Laura Maniglia