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.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing inequities that changed how individuals engage with pre-K programs, schools, colleges, employers, and the world at large. Early evidence suggests the pandemic took a toll on student learning, educational attainment, employment, and physical and mental well-being, especially in communities of color and communities experiencing poverty. In recognition of the fact that better data infrastructure will be needed to shift the systems that currently produce inequitable outcomes, a growing number of states are working to modernize statewide longitudinal data systems to understand the experiences and outcomes of individuals seamlessly across pre-K, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the federal government has provided nearly $190 billion in education funding to states and districts. The three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding represent the largest infusion of federal funds in history for reopening schools, updating buildings and supporting learning recovery. Now, over three years later, is the time to assess whether the dollars have made a difference, and what they should be spent on going forward.
A new report identifies four areas to focus on to measure and improve summer learning programs, key questions to answer as you seek out data, and research-based recommendations for each area of data collection.
A research brief from the EdResearch for Recovery Project can provide a roadmap, highlighting eight design principles – including program duration, attendance, use of time and quality of instruction – that matter most in creating effective programs that deliver strong academic benefits for students.