March 10, 2023

On today's show, Adrian and Ethan look at the alarming increase in chronic absenteeism in our schools and the learning loss during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, about 8 million U.S. students were considered chronically absent, according to the research group Attendance Works. That's when a student misses 10% or more of the school year. By spring 2022, that number had doubled to around 16 million.

Federal attendance data only comes out annually, so it's hard to get a full picture of where things stand at this point in the school year. But several places have reported significant increases. In New York City, 41% of students were chronically absent last year, up from around 27% the year before the pandemic began. In the Las Vegas area, the rate skyrocketed to 40% from 22% over that time. In Connecticut, 24% of students were chronically absent last year, up from 10% before COVID hit. And in Ohio, the rate soared to 30% from 17%.

A new study suggests that children lost about 35% of a normal school years’ worth of learning during the pandemic. The school closures were intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the new paper suggests that learning deficits emerged and persisted over time. The paper included data from 15 different countries.

In the U.S., an analysis found the average student lost more than half a school year of learning in math and nearly a quarter of a school year in reading – with some district averages slipping by more than double those amounts, or worse.

These learning deficits have hit low-income and disadvantaged youth the hardest.