New data shows drop in chronically absent students at Mississippi schools

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FILE - Spann Elementary School students board a school bus following a full day of in-school learning, Sept. 6, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted schools around the country and led to more children missing classes, the number of students who were chronically absent in Mississippi declined during the most recent school year, according to data released, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, by the state's education department. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted schools nationwide and led to more children missing classes, the number of students who were chronically absent in Mississippi declined during the most recent school year, according to data released Tuesday by the state’s education department.

The data, compiled from public schools, shows the chronic absenteeism rate in Mississippi declined from 28% during the 2021-22 school year to 23.9% in 2022-23. During the latest school year, 108,310 Mississippi public school students were chronically absent compared to 128,275 students the year before. The state education department defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10%, or 18 days, of the school year for any reason.

“Seeing Mississippi’s chronic absenteeism rate decrease is a welcomed sign that more students are getting the instruction needed to succeed in the classroom,” said Raymond Morgigno, interim state superintendent of education. “The MDE encourages schools, districts, parents and students to keep making regular attendance a priority.”

Across the country, students have been absent at record rates since schools reopened during the pandemic. Over a quarter of students missed at least 10% of the 2021-22 school year, making them chronically absent. Before the pandemic, only 15% of students missed that much school.

An estimated 6.5 million additional students became chronically absent, according to figures compiled by Stanford University education professor Thomas Dee in partnership with The Associated Press. Chronically absent students are at higher risk of not learning to read and eventually dropping out.

Absent students also miss out on other services schools provide, such as free meals and counseling.

The Mississippi Department of Education said it began reporting data on chronic absences in 2016. The rate fell to a low of 13% in 2019 before rocketing up to 28% in 2022, a trend the department links to fallout from the pandemic.

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BC-MS–Mississippi Absent Students

Sep 26, 2023 5:15 PM – 351 words

By MICHAEL GOLDBERG Associated Press/Report for America

Eds: UPDATES: With AP Photos.

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Cover Photo: Spann Elementary School students board a school bus following a full day of in-school learning, Sept. 6, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted schools around the country and led to more children missing classes, the number of students who were chronically absent in Mississippi declined during the most recent school year, according to data released, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, by the state’s education department. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

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