Featured: Wisconsin students missed nearly a month of school last year

May 16, 2023 | In The News

The following article featuring IRG’s Quinton Klabon was published by Wisconsin Public Radio on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.

(Wisconsin Public Radio) – Wisconsin students missed nearly a month of school last year

Since the pandemic, fewer Wisconsin students have reliably made it to school. The state’s attendance rate reached a new low of 91 percent last year and chronic absenteeism continues to be an issue, with more than 22 percent of students missing at least a month of school.

The picture is even more grim for high school students. The latest state data shows more than a quarter — 26 percent — of Wisconsin high school students missed a month of the 2021-2022 school year.

A student is considered chronically absent when they attend less than 90 percent of school days. The overall attendance rate for Wisconsin high school students was 89.7. Milwaukee Public Schools high school students attended only 70 percent of the time.

Attendance is an important measure of student engagement and a predictor of future achievement, dropout or late graduation. And attendance rates have been dropping since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Average attendance hovered around 94 percent in the three years preceding the 2021-2022 school year, according to state Department of Public Instruction data. Attendance rates dropped to 93 percent in the 2020-2021 school year.

Quinton Klabon, a senior research director at the conservative Institute for Reforming Government, pointed to three reasons why absenteeism is continuing to rise: the toll the pandemic has taken on children’s mental health and normal habits; the feeling school is “optional” after the pandemic and restrictive quarantine policies that keep students out of school for several days.

“Everyone was paying attention to what schools did in autumn 2020, when school started in a pandemic, and spring 2021, when the successful vaccine was widely released. However, we overlooked the additional ground that we lost in the 2021-2022 school year due to restrictive quarantine policies,” Klabon said. “Kids were often sent home to quarantine for a week, then came back to substitute teachers filling in for quarantined teachers. Many school districts barely bounced back academically because, simply, children were not in class.”

You can read the full article here.