School report cards are out, and the results reveal the persistent challenges facing Ohio students in the aftermath of pandemic-era disruptions to education. While test scores ticked up in 2022–23 relative to last year, math scores remain substantially below pre-pandemic levels and achievement gaps remain wide. In Columbus and Dayton school districts, for example, 46 and 51 percent of students, respectively, scored “limited” on state assessments—the lowest mark—roughly double the proportion of students at this level statewide (23 percent).
Accelerating student learning remains a moral imperative, and a continuing challenge for Ohio’s policymakers and educational leaders. There has been much discussion about how to boost achievement, but one of the most basic ways to move the needle might be hiding in plain sight: simply making sure that students attend school.
Unfortunately, absenteeism soared during the pandemic and remains at alarmingly high levels. Statewide, chronic absenteeism rates increased from 17 to 27 percent between 2018–19 and 2022–23. That translates to 418,382 students who were chronically absent last year. Such students miss more than 10 percent of the school year for any reason, whether excused or unexcused. Based on a 180-day year, that is equivalent to eighteen or more days of school—nearly a month worth of learning. That’s a lot of valuable instructional time lost.