Editor's Focus: Showing Up

April 8, 2024

If “80 percent of success is showing up” (a maxim usually attributed to Woody Allen), then too many students have been falling short of success at school since the Covid-19 pandemic. Chronic absenteeism—students who miss 10% or more of the school year—ballooned in the chaos that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has yet to subside to pre-Covid levels.

For example, in the Clark County (Nevada) district, the nation’s fifth-largest, 38.3% of its 300,000 or so students were chronically absent in 2022-23. That’s an improvement over the 40.6% rate in 2021-22, but 40.6%, but significantly worse than the district’s pre-pandemic chronic absenteeism rate of 21.9%. Florida Department of Education 2022-23 statistics show that 30.9% of Florida’s 3.2 million public school students were chronically absent. The Illinois Department of Education reports that 28% of the state’s 1.9 million students were chronically absent in 2022-23.

Research says students who miss school that frequently are more likely to encounter setbacks later in life—they tend to perform more poorly than other students, they are more likely to drop out of school, and struggle to develop relationships and social skills needed to interact successfully with others.

Attendance Works, a non-profit group that works to combat chronic absenteeism, has outlined several strategies to help more students return to regular school attendance.

Family engagement: Schools with higher levels of family engagement had significantly lower increases in chronic absence during the pandemic. Relational home visits and using an app to improve communications in the home language with families also improved attendance.

School Connectedness: Building a sense of connection to school is an effective universal prevention action for chronic absenteeism. Students are connected to schools when they believe there is an adult at school who knows and cares about them, they have a supportive peer group, they engage at least some of the time in activities they find meaningful and which help others, and they feel seen and welcome in school.

Expanded Access to Health Service: Health supports in schools, including school nurses, school-based health clinics and telehealth are all proven strategies for improving attendance. These resources provide access to health care that students might not otherwise have and can encourage healthful habits that prevent illness. Nurses or other health staff can help families learn how to avoid keeping students home unnecessarily for minor illness or anxiety.


Enter the Educational Interiors Showcase 2024

It’s not too late to include a project in the 2024 Educational Interiors Showcase. Judging starts in late May. Visit SchoolDesigns.com for more information and to enter online. Don’t miss this chance to include your project in the August Educational Interiors Showcase issue.

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