Representational image Wokandapix/ Pixabay

Chronical absenteeism shot up during the pandemic, but it was much worse for Latino students, according to a new study by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.

The study, which analyzed and compared federal data from the 2017-2018 and 2021-2022 school years, found that five million Latinos were chronically absent from school during the latter period, a 53 percent increase compared to the former, when the figure was 2.4 million.

The only group to have more absentees were Whites, but only nominally: the group saw a 39 percent increase, from over 3 million to 5.2 million. Considering that Latinos represent a much smaller proportion of the population, the percentage of chronically absent students compared to the total population was much higher.

Overall, 30 percent of the students were chronically absent from school. The report emphasizes the urgent need for a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to address the issue, particularly in districts serving economically challenged students.

The unprecedented levels of chronic absence in schools following pandemic challenges are intensifying educational inequities. Schools serving populations historically deprived of equal learning opportunities were more likely to face extreme levels of chronic absence. The disruption affects both chronically absent students and their peers, impacting the overall teaching and learning environment.

The data also revealed that poverty is a driving factor shaping the pandemic's impact on chronic absence. Between the 2017-18 and 2021-22 school years, schools serving higher portions of students experiencing poverty witnessed the greatest increases in chronic absence. Schools with extreme chronic absence levels nearly tripled in those with 75% or more students receiving free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL).

Districts Key to Addressing Absenteeism

To tackle this issue effectively, the study emphasizes the role of districts in implementing a system-wide approach. Districts with multiple schools facing extreme levels of chronic absence must adopt a coordinated set of tiered interventions, involving teams trained to take a data-informed approach. A significant challenge is faced by economically challenged districts, where 41 percent have the vast majority (75 percent) of their schools with extreme levels of chronic absence.

States Strengthening District Capacity

States, armed with data, play a crucial role in building district capacity. They can provide guidance and resources to all districts while offering intensive assistance to those with higher levels of chronic absenteeism. Peer learning opportunities can facilitate the sharing of successful strategies among districts. States, exemplified by Connecticut, can offer multiple levels of support tailored to individual district needs.

A Systemic Approach to Improve Attendance

The study concludes by outlining key strategies to reduce chronic absence. These include promoting family engagement, fostering school connectedness, implementing community schools, and expanding access to health services within schools. A systemic, multi-pronged district approach, weaving together various strategies, is crucial to addressing the complex challenge of chronic absenteeism, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic-induced surge.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.