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It's 'All Hands On Deck' As CPS Sees Chronic Absenteeism Increase And ELA Rates Fall Due To Pandemic

Ambriehl Crutchfield

Proficiency rates dropped and chronic absenteeism rose during the pandemic across Cincinnati Public Schools.

Chronic absenteeism increased 9.4% since 2018-2019, the last complete pre-pandemic year. One of the reasons this statistic could've jumped up would be the district's quarantine policy. Students were required to quarantine for 14 days last year. However, CPS' increase is slightly above the state's average and is better than the Urban 8 districts.

English language arts (ELA) proficiency rates in grades 3 and 5-8 dropped dramatically from the previous pre-pandemic year. For third graders, ELA rates were cut by more than half, going from 66.4% in 2018-19 to 33.1% in 2020-21. Fifth through eighth graders also saw drops in math and ELA rates. Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat says CPS will be implementing some "must haves" for kids in the district.

"We have to do the two-week cycle assessments," Amat said. "We have to know where our kids are so we can respond quickly and put improvements in place … Sometimes this is very depressing, but I believe we need to plan joyful lessons."

She is calling this an "all hands on deck" situation.

"It's going to take everyone - everyone - to ensure that we address unfinished learning," Amat said.

Attendance rates fell for teachers and students during the 2020-21 fall semester when CPS was implementing blended learning due to rises in COVID-19 cases.

The district has implemented mask requirements for students and staff. While masks will be required indoors, if a student is identified as a close contact within a school building, the student may continue to attend classes if they're not showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

The Board of Education will vote on a proposed vaccine requirement for staff members on Sept. 13. The policy would require all district employees and co-located partners to receive a COVID-19 vaccine unless a religious or medical exemption is claimed. Under the policy, political beliefs are not a sufficient reason to request accommodations. "Co-located partners" include health partners, resource coordinators, school resource officers and other partners working out of a district building.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.