Report: 40% of Boston high school juniors and seniors have been chronically absent

Across all grades, the number of chronically absent students rose from 21 to 26 percent last fall.

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–Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe, File

Approximately 40 percent of high school junior and senior students in Boston Public Schools were chronically absent from classes in the fall, raising concerns about how many will go on to graduate, according to a Boston Globe report.

Two out of five upperclassmen in the district were frequently missing class, or “chronically absent” — the term applied when a student is not present for at least 10 percent of classes, the newspaper reports.

At minimum, 2,900 of those students fell into that category between September and December last year — an increase of almost 500 from before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Globe.

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Across all grades, the chronically absent rate increased to 26 percent, up from 21 percent, while the largest increases were recorded among Black, Latino, English-learner, and disabled students.

Educators and students who spoke with the Globe highlighted instances where students became increasingly absent after losing relatives to COVID-19, working jobs to support their household, and experiencing trouble logging in for remote learning.

“It’s very clear that (the district) doesn’t have the resources to support these students,” Charlene Adames-Pimentel, a Dominican-American senior student at Boston Latin Academy, told the newspaper.

The district has sought to re-engage chronically-absent students through texts, phone calls, and visits by social workers and teachers, as well as through teams that can direct families to needed resources such as technology, housing, food, and health services, according to the Globe.

The district is also rolling out a new software program that will make it easier for teachers to refer students for services and get confirmation that they did in fact receive them, Corey Harris, the district’s chief accountability officer, told the newspaper.

Chronically-absent students will soon also have the chance to complete their classwork after the end of the semester for a passing grade, Harris said.

Read the full report.

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