Why so many kids are still missing school

“Some of the latest absenteeism data reveals the staggering impact the pandemic has had on student attendance.
Before the pandemic, during the 2015–16 school year, an estimated 7.3 million students were deemed “chronically absent,” meaning they had missed at least three weeks of school in an academic year. (According to the US Department of Education, there were 50.33 million K-12 students that year.) After the pandemic, the number of absent students has almost doubled.

Chronic absenteeism increased in every state where data was made public, and in Washington, DC, between the last pre-pandemic school year, 2018–19, and the 2021–22 school year, according to data from Future Ed, an education think tank. Locations with the highest increases saw their rates more than double.”

“Experts point to deeper issues, some that have long troubled students and schools and others that are only now apparent in the aftermath of school shutdowns.

“When you see these high levels of chronic absence, it’s a reflection that the positive conditions of learning that are essential for motivating kids to show up to school have been eroded,” said Hedy Chang, the founder and executive director of Attendance Works, an organization that tracks attendance data and helps states address chronic absenteeism. “It’s a sign that kids aren’t feeling physically and emotionally healthy and safe. Belonging, connection, and support — in addition to the academic challenge and engagement and investments in student and adult well-being — are all so crucial to positive conditions for learning.”

Despite increased attention to the topic, chronic absenteeism is not exactly new — until recently, it was considered a “hidden educational crisis.”

“This has been an ongoing issue and it didn’t just all of a sudden appear because the pandemic arose. Folks have been trying to address this issue for years,” said Joshua Childs, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies absenteeism interventions in communities and states. “It’s historically mainly impacted students from disadvantaged communities and underserved populations.”

What’s new about chronic absenteeism is that it now affects students from a variety of demographic backgrounds, from those in the suburbs and rural areas to those in cities.”

“The root causes of chronic absenteeism are vast. Poverty, illness, and a lack of child care and social services remain contributors to poor attendance, and some communities continue to struggle with transportation challenges; the pandemic has brought on a youth mental health crisis that has caused students to miss school; parents have reframed how they think about illness, ready to keep their children home at the slightest signs of sickness.”

https://www.vox.com/2024/1/9/23904542/chronic-absenteeism-school-attendance

Guns, Germs, and Drugs Are Largely Responsible for the Decline in U.S. Life Expectancy

“So why did U.S. life expectancy trends slow and then peak in 2014? And what, if anything, can policy makers and politicians realistically do to make increasing it a priority? As noted above, the big recent dip largely resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2023 Scientific Reports article “estimated that US life expectancy at birth dropped by 3.08 years due to the million COVID-19 deaths” between February 2020 and May 2022. But let’s set aside that steep post-2020 downtick in life expectancy resulting from nearly 1.2 million Americans dying of COVID-19 infections.

A 2020 study in Health Affairs chiefly attributed the 3.3-year increase in U.S. life expectancy between 1990 and 2015 to public health, better pharmaceuticals, and improvements in medical care. By public health, the authors meant such things as campaigns to reduce smoking, increase cancer screenings and seat belt usage, improve auto and traffic safety, and increase awareness of the danger of stomach sleep for infants. With respect to pharmaceuticals, they cited the significant reduction in cardiovascular diseases that resulted from the introduction of effective drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

So a big part of what propelled increases in U.S. life expectancy is the fact that the percentage of Americans who smoke has fallen from 43 percent in the 1970s to 16 percent now. Smoking is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and cancers, rates of which have been dropping for decades. In addition, the rising percentage of Americans who are college graduates correlated with increasing life expectancy.

However, since the 2004 peak, countervailing increases in the death rates from drug overdoses, firearms, traffic accidents, and diseases associated with obesity contributed to the flattening of U.S. life expectancy trends.

A 2021 comprehensive analysis of the recent stagnation and decline in U.S. life expectancy in the Annual Review of Public Health (ARPH) largely concurs, finding that “the proximate causes of the decline are increases in opioid overdose deaths, suicide, homicide, and Alzheimer’s disease.” Interestingly, the U.S. trend in Alzheimer’s disease prevalence has been downward since 2011. In addition, the ARPH review noted that “a slowdown in the long-term decline in mortality from cardiovascular diseases has also prevented life expectancy from improving further.” So enabling and persuading more properly diagnosed Americans to take blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications would likely boost overall life expectancy.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/08/guns-germs-and-drugs-are-largely-responsible-for-the-decline-in-u-s-life-expectancy/

Millions of Kids Left Classrooms During the Pandemic. New Data Show 50,000 Hadn’t Returned 2 Years Later.

“According to a new analysis from the Associated Press, 50,000 children were still estimated to be “missing” from American classrooms in fall 2022—two years after the COVID-19 pandemic caused school enrollment numbers to plummet.
While the number actually indicates an improvement in school attendance—the A.P. found that an estimated 230,000 children were missing in fall 2021—it also shows that thousands of children have nonetheless experienced multiyear disruptions to their educations following COVID-era school closures.”

“According to the A.P., while exact causes are difficult to pinpoint, bureaucratic hurdles could be a major factor holding children back from returning to the classroom. Many school districts have stringent policies of unenrolling children after long absences, while others require onerous paperwork proving a child’s residency within the district or complicated medical requirements.

In Atlanta, for example, parents must provide eight separate documents to enroll their children in public schools, including a “complicated certificate evaluating a child’s dental health, vision, hearing and nutrition,” according to the A.P.

One mother of a seventh-grader with autism told the A.P. that she tried to enroll her son in their local public school as soon as the pandemic closures ended. However, she didn’t have reliable transportation and said she couldn’t find a nearby appointment to get him the required immunizations, causing her son to miss five months of school.

“He wasn’t in school, and no one cared,” she told the A.P.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/19/millions-of-kids-left-classrooms-during-the-pandemic-new-data-show-50000-hadnt-returned-2-years-later/

Why are so few people getting the latest Covid-19 vaccine?

“Experts say the public’s disinterest in the latest Covid shots is likely a combination of poor messaging from authorities, a diminishing fear about a virus that three years ago was wholly unknown, and the political polarization of the pandemic itself. But whatever the reasons, that vaccine ambivalence still poses a health threat.
Elderly people and very young infants continue to have a higher chance than the rest of the population that they will be hospitalized with Covid-19. Vaccination rates have fallen off for the former group, who are also most likely to die from an infection, and they were never strong to begin with for the latter”

“The known unknowns for the future, which could spur another round of investment and interest in updated Covid-19 vaccines, are biological. The virus has been evolving and will continue to evolve and could, in theory, reach a point where the current vaccines are ineffectual.

The other question mark is inside of us. The reason many people still enjoy protection from serious illness is because our body’s T-cells are familiar with the virus and can activate when they detect it. They may not be able to stop an infection entirely (that is the role of antibodies, which are quicker to fade) but they can stamp out the virus before a person becomes too sick.

What we don’t know today is how long our T cells’ memory will last, and how durable that immunity really is. The only way to find out is for more time to pass.”

https://www.vox.com/policy/2023/11/17/23964294/covid-19-vaccine-2023-us-vaccination-rates