The chronic absenteeism rate grew by double digits last school year in more than 30 area districts compared to the pre-pandemic year in 2018-2019 and rose 13% statewide during the same time period.
School administrators said chronic absenteeism — when a student misses at least 10% of instructional time in a year — is creating another barrier for school districts that are struggling to get students back on track following the pandemic.
Ohio’s chronic absenteeism rate rose six percentage points in the 2021-2022 school year to 30%, according to the Ohio Department of Education. This past year’s chronic absenteeism rate is much higher than the 2018-2019 school year — the last “normal” school year before COVID-19 — when the state’s chronic absenteeism rate was 17%.
The statewide attendance rate last school year was about 90% - a significant difference from the 2018-2019 school year, when statewide attendance was 94%.
Students who miss at least 15 days of school in a year are more likely to fall behind in school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Since Ohio’s students are already behind in math and reading compared to before the pandemic – according to data from the Ohio Department of Education - students missing significant amounts of school hurts the ability of teachers to catch students up.
Locally, most schools saw their chronic absenteeism rates worsen as students missed more school. While chronic absenteeism rates worsened across the board, districts like Springfield City, Hamilton City and Dayton Public, who already had a high rate of absenteeism saw their rates rise dramatically.
Suburban districts like Kettering, Centerville, Beavercreek, Oakwood and Springboro were not exempt from the trend.
“The pandemic disrupted the learning routines of many students, who became accustomed to learning from home,” said Elizabeth Lolli, the Dayton Public Schools superintendent. “When school resumed in-person learning, this made getting back into the routine of daily in-person instruction difficult for some.”
Lolli said she believes the reasons that students are missing so much school right now are complicated. Some older students might miss school to work or to watch their younger siblings. Chronic absenteeism across the region is higher at high schools than elementary schools.
Chronic Absenteeism Rate
The chronic absenteeism rate at many schools last year grew higher the previous two years during the pandemic.
|New Miami Local||66.6||39.6||22.8||33.6||33|
|Covington Exempted Village||27.4||17.8||3.8||5.9||21.5|
|Mad River Local||37.6||13.7||10.5||18.2||19.4|
|Yellow Springs Exempted Village||32.5||20.4||7.4||13.4||19.1|
|Huber Heights City||33.9||24.6||8.9||15.5||18.4|
|Jefferson Township Local||42.1||38||16.5||25.1||17|
|Springfield City School District||46.5||57.7||21.4||31.4||15.1|
|Xenia Community City||32.5||23.1||13.6||20.8||11.7|
|New Lebanon Local School District||21.8||20.1||8.2||10.6||11.2|
|Milton-Union Exempted Village||20.8||32.4||6.6||12||8.8|
|Little Miami Local||15.2||5.3||4.9||6.4||8.8|
|Miami East Local||11.1||6.5||1.4||3.1||8|
|Valley View Local||15.6||10.7||4.1||8.9||6.7|
|Bradford Exempted Village||18.3||10.8||5.1||12.1||6.2|
|West Carrollton City||22.1||14.8||10.1||16.2||5.9|
|Kettering City School District||13.0||5.1||5.2||7.4||5.6|
|Springboro Community City||8.6||5.8||2.4||3.1||5.5|
|Tipp City Exempted Village||9.5||10.5||3.7||6.1||3.4|
|Cedar Cliff Local||9.0||9.3||4.3||6.9||2.1|
Suburban districts see dramatic increases
Suburban districts like Centerville, Kettering, Huber Heights, Oakwood, Springboro and Beavercreek, who typically have few students missing school, have seen huge spikes of chronic absenteeism and a drop in attendance.
Beavercreek had one of the most dramatic rises in chronic absenteeism among the suburban schools, from 6.6% in 2018-2019 to 19.6% in 2021-2022, a 13-point jump. The district’s attendance rate fell from about 96% in 2018-2019 to 93% last school year.
Kettering, which initially didn’t see an increase in chronic absenteeism in 2020-2021, saw a spike in its chronic absenteeism rate to about 13% in 2021-2022 from about 5% the previous year.
Kettering’s spokesman Kari Basson said the district saw a similar spike to what other schools were seeing last year and cited similar issues with getting students to come back to school after learning remotely and coming back from COVID-19.
Basson said the district reaches out early to families who seem to be struggling to get their kids to school, which helped keep the districts’ chronic absentee rate lower than many other districts.
Piqua schools in Miami County saw its rate of chronic absenteeism rise from about 17% in the 2018-2019 school year to 39.6% in the 2021-2022 school year.
Piqua superintendent Dwayne Thompson said the district struggled with getting students back to in-person school from online learning and saw a spike in reports of mental illnesses among students. Students also missed school due to COVID-19 outbreaks, he said.
The district has hired a truancy officer and more mental health counselors to help address the problem, Thompson said.
“The attendance this school year has been the best we have seen so far so we believe our work last year is making a positive difference,” Thompson said. “We are tracking data and hoping to see that trend continue. "
High rates of chronic absenteeism worsen
For districts that already had high rates of chronic absenteeism, the trend worsened.
Dayton Public Schools has seen a nearly 18% increase in chronic absenteeism since the 2018-2019 school year, when the rate was about 34%. Last school year, the chronic absenteeism rate was about 52% - close to the 2020-2021 school year’s rate of 53%.
The district has already begun work to get students back into the classroom. Lolli said the district is hiring success coaches for each school and is working on a public campaign to get students back into the classroom.
Other districts, like Springfield, Trotwood-Madison, Fairborn and Mad River, had relatively high levels of absenteeism before the pandemic, but the pandemic appeared to make that worse.
Fairborn spokeswoman Pam Gayheart said the district will begin sending targeted messages to parents and families to encourage school attendance as part of the district’s plan to address the issue.
“Student attendance begins at home,” Gayheart said. “Parents and schools must work together with the common goal that students learn best when they attend school regularly.”
How Springfield is improving
Springfield schools’ chronic absenteeism rate nearly doubled in the school year before the pandemic and the 2020-2021 school year, from about 31% in 2018-2019 to 58% in 2020-2021.
But last school year Springfield improved chronic absenteeism to about 47% – still worse than the pre-pandemic period, but an improvement.
The students could miss school for a variety of reasons, from mental health issues to lack of transportation to needing to work during school hours to recently having a baby, the school district said.
Springfield schools added six truancy officers to the school buildings last year, bringing the total up to nine. The district said these officers have special training, can meet people where they are, and can work closely with county officials.
The district hopes to add an attendance officer for each building in the district in the future.
“The building of that relationship between school staff and students is critical for any student’s attendance, which then has a direct effect on academic performance,” said Bob Hill, Springfield superintendent.
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