Happy Women’s History and Social Work Month! Thank you for all you do for your students and schools. We cannot do this work without building community, so again, thank you.
A quick shout-out to the Ames and Arlington Heights School Districts as we worked together for my book study sessions. Have you ordered your copy? Need to purchase a bulk order? Let me know!
Continuing from last week, I wanted to take a closer look at the effects of the ongoing pandemic on our students. I came across this Associated Press article, “Thousands of kids are missing from school. Where did they go?” by Bianca Vázquez Toness and Sharon Lurye. They reported, “An analysis by The Associated Press (AP), Stanford University’s Big Local News project, and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee found an estimated 230,000 students in 21 states [and Washington, D.C.] whose absences could not be accounted for.” This statistic reflects the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 school years.
Through publically available data, the 230,000 students did not enroll at a private school or opt for home school or move out of state. In layperson’s terms, 230,000 students are missing. Due to the outbreak of the pandemic and school closures across the nation, school leaders and officials made different attempts to reengage students and their families through door-to-door attempts, etc. Those door-to-door attempts have stopped three years since COVID-19 first impacted our communities.
What folks are saying about my keynotes:
"Dr. Eakins was engaging. He was interesting and informative on the whole. I like that group conversations were incorporated into the session. It is not an easy topic to have an honest and open conversation about, so having a space to ask questions and listen to what other people think and feel about this is helpful to me."
"It was actually good to hear from someone who has dealt with young diverse groups of students, not from a purely academic perspective."
"Dr. Eakins was pretty amazing. Aspirational and inspiring. Very fortunate to hear him talk."
"Dr. Sheldon Eakins was extremely approachable as well as offered some great suggestions."
"Useful and timely topic and the keynote speaker was amazing!"
Instead, some school leaders and state officials have voiced the fiscal challenges that have come about students missing from their classrooms. A student’s absence directly impacts the funding schools receive from the government across all levels -- city, state, and federal. It is clear that there has been declining school enrollment, but as Tom Sheppard, a representative of New York City’s Panel for Educational Policy and parent, said, “Everyone is talking about declining enrollment, but no one is talking about who’s leaving the system and why.”
There are multiple reasons why students and their families have not returned to school. AP found, “Some are still afraid of COVID-19, are homeless, or have left the country. Some students couldn’t study online and found jobs instead. Some slid into depression.” Additionally, the sudden switch to online learning was not a smooth transition for all. Some students fell further behind academically and developmentally. As mentioned last week, transitioning to online learning was also difficult for students from different socio-economic status households or those with caregiving responsibilities.
What about students who did return to in-person instruction but needed to catch up so they required new accommodations? Such as Ezekiel West, a fourth-grader who reads at a first-grade level. Due to issues during online learning, he had fallen behind. “An administrative judge…ordered the [Los Angeles] district to give him a spot at a new school, with a special plan to ease him back into learning and trusting teachers.” However, because the school did not adhere to the plan, his mother stopped sending him to school. What about students who have now aged out of the public school system but did not receive instruction for a year due to the pandemic? Why are school systems not following up? Who is holding them accountable? Why is it that we have more questions than answers? And yet, some students were already behind even pre-pandemic, so how does that factor into the 230,000 missing students from their classrooms? Unfortunately, addressing the absenteeism crisis is nothing new.
The more significant issue is how schools are meeting our students where they are or failing them. And what side of history do we want to be on?
Content created this week:
That’s all this week,
Every Friday you can expect a small and informative message from the Leading Equity Center. The Weekend Voice is meant to challenge your thoughts of education today and to provoke you to take action in your schools.