New data shows nearly half of Alaska students are chronically absent


This article was originally published on Alaska bacon.

In 2022, only one state, Arizona, had more chronically absent students than Alaska, where more 45% of students He missed enough school to be academically at risk, according to a national nonprofit.

That means nearly half of Alaska students missed at least 10% of the school year in the most recent data available. In a presentation to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, Heidi Chang, executive director of the nonprofit Attendance, said rates of chronic absenteeism have doubled nationwide since the pandemic, and Alaska is no exception.

“Part of the reason you want to notice chronic absence and make sure kids have good attendance is because that ultimately leads to those outcomes that we really care about,” she said.

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the organization He specifies Chronic absenteeism, such as missing school by 10% or more for any reason.

Data collected by Attendance Matters showed that increases in chronic absenteeism in the state are occurring at the same time as state scores on national standardized tests are declining. “I think about 25 percent of that decrease is due to attendance, and actually increases in absences,” Chang said.

The data also showed that second graders who were chronically absent were less likely to be able to read at grade level than their peers who were not chronically absent. The consequences can last, manifesting themselves in poor performance in middle school and an increased likelihood of dropping out of high school, Chang said.

Before the pandemic, nearly half of the state’s schools had “severe chronic absence,” where 30% or more of students are chronically absent. In the 2021-2022 school year, 86% of Alaska schools experienced severe chronic absenteeism.

By having students attend school every day, Zhang said, it builds a routine, reduces stress, creates a sense of security, and increases engagement.

“What happens in school is not just education, but all those relationships and opportunities to learn and develop with peers, as well as with adults, when you go to school,” she said. “It gives you greater access to resources, whether it’s mental health or meals — meals are something we’ve really seen during the pandemic, tutoring, mentoring, technology or also those extracurricular activities — sports or music — that really help develop a whole person.” Hence attendance is really important for learning.

Chang cited underlying reasons for missing school, such as trauma, housing or food insecurity, a lack of challenging or culturally responsive teaching, or a lack of meaningful relationships with adults at school — especially in light of staffing shortages, Zhang noted. The offer you made.

Sen. Lockie Tobin, D-Anchorage, said she would like to see guidance from the Department of Education and Early Development on policy approaches so the Legislature can support schools and districts and address what she called “an obviously high-impact issue.”

Tobin noted that the presentation showed that culturally relevant education is among the solutions to chronic absenteeism. She said she looks to tribal solidarity and ways to decolonize education in the state as potential ways to address different ways of learning and knowing in Alaskan communities.

“Sometimes our students are absent because they are hunting or fishing, or spending time with their grandparents, or because they are sewing leather with an elder. Sometimes the way we categorize learning within the Western structure may not necessarily fit our country,” she said.

Tobin said she was surprised by how much absenteeism affected reading scores, a metric that lawmakers aimed to improve when they passed the bill. Alaska law reads In 2022.

“The Alaska Reading Act was very important to me when it came to creating a statewide understanding that every child has the right to learn to read. That right also means you have to go to school,” she said. “We can’t just set policy and forget it. “

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