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CT student attendance is improving, but officials say pandemic learning loss remains a challenge

The Connecticut State Department of Education reported today in their 2022-23 attendance and student assessment that about one in five students remain chronically absent, a rate state education officials called “unacceptably high.”
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
The Connecticut State Department of Education reported today in their 2022-23 attendance and student assessment that about one in five students remain chronically absent, a rate state education officials called “unacceptably high.”

Student attendance and scores in math and science are rising in Connecticut, but education officials say the state is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels.

The Connecticut State Department of Education released 2022-23 attendance and student assessment data Monday.

For the first time since the pandemic, attendance has improved. Chronic absenteeism rates also declined from the year before, resulting in approximately 18,000 more students attending school regularly, according to state officials.

But about one in five students remain chronically absent, a rate state education officials called “unacceptably high.” A student is considered “chronically absent” if they miss at least 10% of the total number of days in a given year for any reason.

Absentee rates climbed nationwide when the pandemic hit, a trend that also played out in Connecticut. Education officials say chronic absenteeism rates increased from 10.4% in 2018-19 to 19% in 2020-21. After the return to full-time in-person learning in 2021-22, the rate continued to rise to 23.7%.

During the most recent 2022-23 school year, the chronic absenteeism rate dropped to 20%.

“What we're hearing from families there is still the issue of illnesses, and concerns that families may have,” said Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker. “Unfortunately, we do have students sometimes that are taking on adult responsibilities at home.”

Academically, state officials also noted signs of hope, saying student testing scores improved in mathematics and science, but that performance in English language arts is mixed.

"The improvements in chronic absenteeism, as well as math and science scores should encourage us to strengthen our collective resolve and continue working together intensively to re-engage all students in their education,” Russell-Tucker said, in a statement. “It is incumbent upon all of us to use these and other data to effectively foster innovation and create learning environments that empower students to realize their infinite possibilities and boundless potential.”

More school districts are meeting or exceeding pre-pandemic achievement levels, according to state data. In 2022-23, 44 districts in mathematics, and 65 districts in science, met or exceeded their pre-pandemic levels. That’s up from 23 and 48 districts, respectively, in 2021-22.

But statewide performance still lags pre-pandemic levels in all areas and for all student groups and grades, according to state data.

This story has been updated.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.
Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.

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