COVID-related lockdowns and remote learning arrangements have taken a serious toll on students across America, as rates of chronic absenteeism and other serious behavioral issues are rising, according to a new report.
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 72% of public schools over the past year reported higher rates of chronic absenteeism, defined as a student who misses at least 15 school days a year. A study by EdWeek Research Center found that absenteeism rates were significantly higher in schools that were completely remote during the 2020-21 school year than in schools with in-person learning.
This issue does not appear to be disproportionately affecting low-income or urban schools, as the NCES results were consistent across socio-economic demographics. Schools with lower rates of student poverty reported a 73% increase in chronic absenteeism, and schools in rural areas experienced a 71% increase.
“It’s very concerning. We need to pay close attention to these students,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, a nonprofit aimed at boosting school attendance. “Not only are they missing out on opportunities to connect with their peers, but they’re missing valuable classroom time to help them recover from learning loss from the previous year.”
The problem does not end when students do decide to come to class. More than 87% of public schools agreed that the pandemic had a marked negative impact on students’ socio-emotional development. Additionally, 83% of schools reported that students’ behavioral development had been negatively affected.
Since returning to school, students have become much more unruly, as 56% of schools reported an increase in student misconduct in the classroom, and 46% of schools reported an increase in threats of physical attacks between students since the pandemic. Verbal abuse and disrespect toward teachers have also risen by 48%, according to the NCES report.
Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center, said, “The survey paints a remarkably coherent picture. The general trend is still showing pandemic-related harm to students and their teachers.”