The state of attendance in schools across the nation

Tackling the nationwide attendance crisis

Neel Vats and Madhav Syamala

The ongoing issue of attendance in high schools nationwide can be traced back to March of 2020 – back when the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. Distance learning introduced a completely new system in terms of education.

Before the pandemic, a study conducted by Vaughn Byrnes of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education found that over eight million students nationwide were chronically absent during the 2018-19 school year. Chronic absenteeism is classified as missing more than 10% of school days for the year. That is approximately 16% of the student population, or 1 in every 6 students. The rate increased from 13.4% in 2018–2019 to 30% in 2021–2022 in California, more than double the amount of chronic absentees. 

Oak Park High School is feeling the effects of the pandemic as well. Assistant Principal Natalie Smith provided some data regarding chronic absenteeism at OPHS to show its prominence on campus.

During the 2018-19 school year, 75 out of 1,579 students, approximately 1 in 21.1 students, were chronically absent. Now, fast forward to the 2022-23 school year; as of April 14, 2023, 88 out of 1,394 students, which is 1 in 15.8 students, have been chronically absent. 185 students have unenrolled since the pandemic and 13 more students have been chronically absent, exemplifying that attendance is taking a hard hit.

Essentially, OPHS has seen a significant decrease in student population and an increase in chronic absenteeism.

This is a 1.6% increase in chronic absenteeism, which may not seem alarming – but this is the beginning of a slippery slope. Students now more than ever are skipping school for negligible reasons. 

“My first period always be empty and even sometimes I feel like, why am I even here?” junior Aaron Huggins said.

A large portion of revenue for public schools comes from student attendance, and chronic absenteeism has had detrimental effects on the school, as well as the district. Some of the negative effects include, decreased funding, lower academic achievement and increased workload for teachers and staff.

Attendance is another one of the things that colleges can see, and although it’s not a major aspect of students’ transcripts, it exposes their responsibility and eagerness to show up and do everything in their power to have a good education.