Anchorage School District sees student attendance dip

Superintendent attributes COVID-19 protocols as main reason for attendance drop, hopes to resume programs that reward good attendance
Anchorage School District sees student attendance dip
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 1:36 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Student attendance statistics have dropped in the Anchorage School District, according to Superintendent Deena Bishop at the latest Anchorage School Board meeting.

Bishop said COVID-19 protocols contributed to that dip in numbers as both students and teachers were absent from the classroom.

“By September, if you recall, we had over 800 absences. We weren’t even in school for a month, and it was killing us because of close contacts,” Bishop explained to the board. “... So some of the two major actions I took this year were specifically around changing some of the attendance and getting kids and staff back in school.”

The school district had its lowest attendance rate in the last five years with an 88.6% clip this school year, the first time it’s been under 90% since at least the 2016-17 school year. Measured by attendance rate by grade level, high school seniors saw the biggest drop with a 4.7% decrease from last year, while charter schools saw the biggest dip for school type at 4.9%.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop said they could promote attendance to students through programs that rewarded students for good attendance. She said they hope to resume those programs, but are unable to because of protocols that encourage students to stay home if they have symptoms.

“At this point time, many of those aggressive techniques that were schoolwide ... are causing cognitive dissonance with our parents and our kids,” Bishop said. “They’re like, ‘OK, you’re telling me to be here, and then you’re telling me to go home when I do get my kid here.’”

The attendance numbers are a part of the outcome monitoring that the superintendent and school board assess during meetings. The district wants to raise the percentage of students with a 90% attendance rate, citing attendance as a strong indicator of success in life.

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