One-Third Of Massachusetts Public Students Were Chronically Absent Last Year

A new report found that one-third of Massachusetts students were chronically absent last year, shedding light on a growing issue.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Massachusetts students

Public education is failing students, and students are failing public education. The pandemic exacerbated many problems in the system, and because of all these issues coming to a head, more and more students are falling through the cracks. Chronic absenteeism has been on the rise for years, but districts are now reporting serious concerns, as more students are missing a large chunk of crucial school days. In Massachusetts, students are out of school so much, that a new report sheds light on a grim statistic, as one-third of these schoolchildren were chronically absent last year. 

Being chronically absent varies by district, but typically it means students are missing at least 10% or more of the school year. Going by this factor, a new report from The Boston Globe found that at least 29% of all Massachusetts students attending public schools were chronically absent. That equates to more than 250,000 children. To make this finding worse, that figure more than doubled the rates of students missing school before the pandemic hit, painting a somber picture of the toll the pandemic had on students.

The location also played a large role in this data. A common trend for urban districts this past school year meant oftentimes, the majority of students were being documented as chronically absent. In Springfield, Massachusetts, chronically absent students accounted for more than half of the district’s population. 

There were a plethora of factors at play leading to the increased rate of chronic absenteeism for Massachusetts students. Mental tolls, at-home family issues, and COVID appeared to be the top reasons, with the latter exacerbating the issues the worse. As the Omicron variant surged through the nation last winter, it affected the east coast state considerably. 

In some schools, more than half of Massachusetts students were out because they were infected with the variant after winter break. While COVID policies have perpetually changed since then, most districts were requiring students to quarantine at home for at least five school days, which made a wider population of children chronically absent.

Oftentimes, transportation and family life was the root cause making Massachusetts students chronically absent. The pandemic uprooted lives and wreaked economic uncertainty that caused families to lose their jobs, because of all of these factors, students were burdened to stay home in many instances. Furthermore, increased rates of depression and anxiety kept some from going to school. 

Massachusetts students

While the hope for these Massachusetts students is that chronically absent rates will return to pre-pandemic levels once a return to normalcy is achieved, the long-lasting effects of missing so much school will likely persist for these students. Research exhibits that chronically absent students fare worse academically, and are more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, other students inadvertently suffer as well, as teachers have no choice but to take more time helping these absent children catch up to the rest of the class. 

Massachusetts students aren’t alone in this dire finding. All across the nation, schools are reporting serious concerns about this. To combat the growing issue, it takes the whole community, and parents, educators, and even lawmakers all need to work together to come up with solutions to re-engage these students, and figure out better policies that keep them in school and learning.