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

Teacher’s Union Sues to Stop New York Congestion Pricing Plan

“Because NEPA allows third parties to sue over allegedly inadequate environmental studies, it’s become a favorite tool of environmentalists, slow growth activists, and garden variety NIMBY (not in my backyard) trying to stop or delay infrastructure projects.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/05/teachers-union-sues-to-stop-new-york-congestion-pricing-plan/

Could Elite Colleges Embrace the SAT Again?

“While many are put off by the persistent score gaps across racial and economic lines, the idea that ditching the test will help minority students or those from low-income families is short-sighted. Yes, SAT scores correlate with income and race—but so do high school GPAs and essays, the other metrics elite colleges most often rely on in the absence of test scores.
GPA is a particularly muddy metric to rely on when making admissions decisions for highly selective colleges, as rigor—and grade inflation—varies widely between high schools. Leonhardt highlighted two recent studies that show this. One found that SAT scores were much more predictive of success (such as being admitted to a top graduate school or being employed by a prestigious firm) than high school GPA. The second found that college grades were much better predicted by standardized test scores than by high school grades.”

“Ultimately, those who stand to benefit most from test-optional admissions aren’t disadvantaged students but mediocre wealthy ones. Standardized test scores, while imperfect, are the closest to an objective measure colleges have for making admissions decisions—one that isolates academic achievement from expensive extracurriculars and tutor-polished essays.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/08/could-elite-colleges-embrace-the-sat-again/

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/

How Some of California’s Worst Schools Got Better at Teaching Reading

“Back in 2017, the families of children in some of California’s worst-performing public schools sued the state for failing to teach low-income black and Hispanic children how to read. This led to a legal settlement in which the state’s 75 worst-performing elementary schools agreed to invest in evidence-based reading instruction—that is, in training teachers to use techniques, such as phonics, for which there is strong evidence that they work.
According to a new working paper from two Stanford researchers, the extra training helped. Students’ reading scores improved when compared to students from other poorly performing schools. The score increases were roughly as valuable as an additional 25 percent of a school year.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/11/how-some-of-californias-worst-schools-got-better-at-teaching-reading/

Infographic: Florida’s Public School Book Bans

“No state banned more books than Florida in the most recent school year, according to free expression nonprofit PEN America. Over 40 percent of school book bans in the U.S. happened in Florida, though a slight majority of Florida school districts had no bans at all. Justifications for the challenges vary, but scenes depicting nonconsensual sex are a common motivator.
PEN America’s definition of a “book ban” is admittedly broad, and all these books remain available for purchase from private sellers, but most challenges against books still end up hindering free speech and open debate. Combined, 1,098 different books were banned in Florida in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/14/infographic-floridas-public-school-book-bans/