White House Advisor Addresses Absenteeism in Schools

  • Neera Tanden, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, recently addressed urban educators at the Council of the Great City Schools' Legislative Policy Conference and told them that the White House is focused on helping states and school districts make sure students attend school regularly.

    Tanden noted that while Americans may differ on many issues, the importance of children's presence in the classroom is universally recognized. “Kids cannot learn if they are not in the classroom,” she said.

    In her address, Tanden pointed to an analysis by the Council of Economic Advisers, highlighting the substantial impact of absenteeism on post-pandemic test scores. She cited statistics that absenteeism contributed to up to 27 percent of declines in math test scores and 45 percent in reading. “We know that addressing absenteeism can have a profound impact on student learning, and of course, test scores.” 

    Despite the gradual recovery from the pandemic, Tanden noted that absenteeism rates remain a concern, particularly in areas where chronic absenteeism remains more than double pre-pandemic levels.

    She highlighted the nature of the problem, with a quarter of the nation's chronically absent students located in just 276 school districts, with 66 of those districts represented by the Council. 

    According to Tanden, absenteeism is not confined to specific regions or demographics. “This is a problem throughout the country,” she said. “It's in red states and blue states, rural, urban, and suburban.”

    She urged educators to take a collaborative approach to combating absenteeism, including setting clear goals, rallying community support, and implementing interventions such as text messaging parents. Tanden commended successful initiatives in school districts such as Los Angeles and Detroit, where proactive measures like home visits and community partnerships have helped reduce absenteeism.

    Noting the White House's commitment to prioritizing student attendance, Tanden stressed the urgency of collective action in the final months of the academic year and beyond. She emphasized that the future generation's education lies in the hands of every school and educational leader. 

    “The education of our children is really the most critical thing public servants can do,” she said.