Oregon school districts have fourth-highest chronic absenteeism rate nationwide

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon schools have one of the nation’s worst post-pandemic rates of chronic absenteeism, according to a national study released earlier this year.

Students are considered chronically absent if they fail to show up for at least 10% of days through the school year.

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The American Enterprise Institute, a “public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world,” found the national average rate for chronic absenteeism grew from 15% in 2019 to 28% in 2022.

Although the organization was unable to compile information for a number of states, the available data shows the rate continued to rise in 2023.

The Oregon Department of Education recorded a chronic absenteeism rate of 20% from 2017 to 2019. The agency didn’t release data on the 2019-20 school year which was affected by home-learning requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, but by the 2023 spring semester, the rate had steadily increased to 38% — the fourth-highest in the U.S.

Washington, D.C., Alaska and New Mexico led as the areas with the highest rates, with D.C. recording 44%.

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Within Oregon, Portland Public Schools exceeded the statewide average rate of chronic absenteeism. The school district reported a 46.4% rate for the previous school year, a significant increase from the 18.9% recorded for 2018-19.

To compare, 33.1% of students in the Beaverton School District were chronically absent for the 2022-23 academic year. About 17.1% were considered chronically absent through the last pre-pandemic school year.

“The academic consequences of these disruptions are glaringly evident in students’ test scores, the social and emotional fallout is reflected in numerous indicators, and the behavioral challenges seen following the return to in-person schooling have made life difficult on students, teachers, and entire school communities,” AEI wrote in its “Long COVID for Public Schools” report.

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The Oregon education department’s latest statewide assessment revealed that students’ test results had improved from the prior academic year, but they were still lagging behind pre-pandemic numbers.

For example, 53.4% of students were considered proficient in English Language Arts for the 2018-19 year. During the 2022-23 year, that number dropped to 43%.

However, the latest graduating class tied the class of 2022 for Oregon’s second-highest on-time graduation rate at 81.3%.

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