A stunning 5,000 – that’s 5,000, with three zeros – Alabama public school students haven’t attended a single day of school this year since their districts adopted all-virtual or hybrid learning models.
According to reports, a preliminary study by the state education department found thousands of kids haven’t attended class this year, when schools across the state – and the country – adopted either all-online or hybrid classroom models thanks to the COVID pandemic.
State Education Superintendent Eric Mackey said this huge gap in attendance is on top of other educational challenges school districts have faced this year, such as falling grades among online learners, children with disabilities struggling to keep up with their work, and teachers trying to instruct entire classrooms full of young children entirely over the computer.
“It’s a very difficult year instructionally and that doesn’t even touch the surface on the issues we will have with these 5,000 students who are not in school and we don’t know where they are,” he said.
Mackey added that some students may have been enrolled in public school and the state simply didn’t know about it. He also added that he has “every expectation” that these students will return to public school once the pandemic is over, but that the state will have a massive and long-term instructional gap to make up for those that didn’t attend class during the shutdown. He added it’s likely that school districts will need to add expanded summer courses for the next several years to help students who’ve fallen behind catch up.
School districts across the country have struggled to maintain student attendance and help kids keep up their grades during the shutdown. In Fairfax County, Virginia's largest school district serving more than 186,000 students, failing grades among middle and high school students have skyrocketed 83 percent with an increase in F's reflected across all demographics, most heavily among students with learning disabilities and English language learners.
In Washington D.C., one entire second-grade class fell behind in reading over the summer, starting the academic year behind their grade level in literacy and revealing massive problems with online learning models, particularly among children from lower-income areas.