This school year was NOT a return to normal. Most of the education leaders in Baltimore I speak with talk about a new normal with significant issues like teacher burnout and shortages and an increase in student behavioral issues with attendance topping the list.

In the recent New York Times article, More Pandemic Fallout: The Chronically Absent Student, by Jacey Fortin, we read that: 

“Chronic absence has skyrocketed” during the pandemic, said Hedy Chang, the director of Attendance Works, a national group that promotes solutions to chronic absenteeism, which has been linked to weaker academic performance and can predict whether a student is more likely to drop out before finishing high school.

Rates of absenteeism can be hard to compare nationally because schools do not report the data in the same way, nor on the same timetable. But according to a December report from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which defined chronic absenteeism as missing 15 school days per year, the percentage of students who were on track to be chronically absent was about 22 percent — more than double the rate of chronically absent students before the pandemic.

“While absenteeism rates for high-income students are leveling off, rates for low-income students have continued to worsen since the spring,” the report added.

“What we know,” Dr. Chang said, “is that chronic absence is exacerbating existing inequities.”

I encourage you to read the full article and educate yourself on the topic of absenteeism and how it’s affecting schools, educators, and students nationwide.

How CSFB makes the grade in attendance

CSFB has only three requirements for our students to continue to receive support all the way through 8th grade once they are in our program:

  1. The family continues to meet the financial criteria.
  2. They contribute at least $500 per child per year towards tuition.
  3. Their child attends school at least 90% of the time.

Over the last nine years, during my tenure as executive director, we have not lost even one student due to low attendance. I attribute this achievement to early intervention. When a CSFB student seems to be having issues with attendance, CSFB Program Administrator Joanne Sanders steps in and becomes involved with the parent or guardian to find out why the student is struggling.   

“I have noticed since the pandemic that low attendance does not necessarily mean a parent is unhappy with their school choice,” Joanne Sanders shares. “Many factors contribute to low attendance. We check-in. And when we can make a difference logistically, like arranging carpools or helping a family figure out how to access public transportation, we intervene. This year, we have had students leave the program because a guardian has lost their job, or in one case, a parent finding out their child is an introvert and needs something different. Absenteeism is more than just a child not being in a seat in a classroom. It can involve a child being present in a seat but absent in their thoughts.”

We believe that CSFB schools are partners with the families they serve, and this is a major reason our students can meet or exceed the 90% attendance rate we require.

– Beth Harbinson, Executive Director

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