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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Missing persons: Will absentees show up this year?

Chronic absenteeism -- missing 18+ days of a 180-day school year -- is way up, writes Ed Navigator's Tim Daly. Twenty-five percent of students missed that much in 2021-22, up from 15 percent prior to the pandemic, and the 2022-23 numbers now coming in are “persistently high.

Photo: Anastasia Shuraeva/Pexels

Because more students are no-shows just about everywhere, some of the explanations -- a shortage of bus drivers, go-soft grading policies -- aren't persuasive, he writes.

Others are stronger. For example, the pandemic disrupted social patterns and school communities, Daly writes. School closures weakened relationships between students and classmates and students and teachers. Older students, in particular, are more likely to connect with friends online rather than in person.

In addition, "in-person school feels outdated" and unnecessary, he writes. "Sitting in a desk for six hours a day is for suckers."

Furthermore, "staying home is fun," Daly writes. "Missing school = hours of unregulated, appealing entertainment." That may explain high absenteeism for early elementary students, whose increases in screen time have been alarming.

Mariana Dale, writing in LAist, looks at the surge in absences in Los Angeles Unified.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said "conversations with more than 9,000 families last year identified three trends: Illness (not for COVID-19); child care; and mental health."

“I think we need to overcome the pandemic mentality that any little sniffle should be addressed by keeping the child at home,” Carvalho said.

"This is the exact opposite of what schools were telling families for a couple years," writes Daly. "Good luck unwinding that messaging."

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