Missing Too Much School

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Among the many disruptions to learning that the pandemic has caused for students and families in Arizona, lost instructional time stands out as one of the most consequential. For a wide range of reasons—related to factors like quarantine, family health and finances, changing schools—students in Arizona are missing too much school.

This was true before the pandemic, but, as this brief shows, the chronic absence rate spiked in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic school years. Nearly one in five students missed more than 10 percent of the school year.

Chronic absenteeism is linked with diminished learning outcomes and an increased likelihood of negative outcomes, like dropping out of high school, that can divert students from paths to postsecondary and professional success.

By highlighting statewide trends in chronic absenteeism during the pandemic, this brief gives education leaders and policymakers an important benchmark that can inform decision making about attendance tracking and attendance improvement efforts.

It also serves as a stark reminder that chronic absence undermines efforts to increase educational equity for students from populations historically underserved and marginalized in our school system. Considering the significant increases in chronic absence observed among these populations during the pandemic, it is vital that we find ways to improve support and engage students to improve attendance as the foundation of a broader approach to increasing equity and closing achievement and opportunity gaps.