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Chronic Absenteeism After the Pandemic

American Enterprise Institute

February 8, 2024

Event Summary

On February 8, AEI’s Nat Malkus presented on his research into post-pandemic chronic absenteeism and then discussed the phenomenon with a panel of experts.

During his presentation, Dr. Malkus argued that a proper understanding of post-pandemic chronic absenteeism must consider both school pandemic closures and school pandemic responses more broadly. Dr. Malkus then showed that chronic absenteeism rates surged among all demographic groups during the pandemic and—of particular concern—fell only modestly during the 2022–23 school year, the first full post-pandemic year. However, Dr. Malkus emphasized, increases were not the same for all student groups: Students in high-poverty and historically low-achieving districts experienced much larger percentage point gains in chronic absenteeism rates.

Following his presentation, Dr. Malkus spoke with a panel of experts—Hedy Chang of Attendance Works, Lisa Coons of the Virginia Department of Education, Michael A. Gottfried of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and Scott Rocco of the Hamilton Township School District—about the potential causes of and potential solutions to the post-pandemic chronic absenteeism crisis. The event concluded with a Q&A.

Event Description

Consistent attendance is key to student success, but post-pandemic attendance has been far from consistent. Nationwide, chronic absenteeism—the percentage of students missing at least 10 percent of a school year—surged from 15 percent in 2018 to 28 percent in 2022 and remained 75 percent above the pre-pandemic baseline in 2023.

Why are post-pandemic chronic absenteeism rates so high? Who is harmed most by the post-pandemic chronic absenteeism crisis? And what can be done to get students back in school? Join AEI’s Nat Malkus and a panel of experts as they discuss these questions and more.