Students learning remotely missed the most days of school this year, according to new data from Connecticut. And students who were chronically absent in the fall were far more likely to keep missing school during the winter months.
The analysis, from the Connecticut Department of Education and advocacy group Attendance Works, shows that rates of chronic absence — defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year — were highest among students in low-income communities, English learners and students with disabilities. And the rates of poor attendance among Black and Hispanic students were two to three times higher than those of their white peers.
“It’s very likely that the trends they are seeing are similar in other states,” said Hedy Chang, the director of Attendance Works. Whether other states see those trends in their data, however, depends on how they decided to count attendance for students learning at home.
Connecticut, which implemented a new process for tracking absenteeism across in-person, hybrid and remote settings, required students to attend school for at least half a day to be marked present. If they were at home, they were responsible for participating in at least half of the virtual class time and the other offline work scheduled for that day. New Jersey adopted the same definition, but many states left the decision up to local districts or allowed a mix of criteria, sometimes nothing more than daily check-in call or a simple log-into a remote class. As of January, 19 states weren’t even requiring districts to take attendance, according to the report.
As officials debate whether they’ll allow some remote learning this fall, the Connecticut data shows chronic absenteeism among remote learners was at its worst in kindergarten and ninth grade — key transition points when in-person learning for students might be especially critical. The findings, Chang said, point to the need for leaders to track daily attendance, set consistent definitions for when a student is counted absent and build stronger connections with families so educators can intervene if a student misses too many days of school. With leaders beginning to craft plans for using federal relief funds, the report also highlights the ways Connecticut is spending last year’s federal money to target districts serving high-need students.
Read the full article about chronic absenteeism during COVID-19 by Linda Jacobson at The 74.
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