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Student attendance on the rise at Washington schools

According to the Washington superintendent, 69.7% of public school students attend school regularly, meaning they miss no more than two days of class every month.

School Calendar & Hours - MSD Washington Township
School Calendar & Hours – MSD Washington Township

WASHINGTON, USA — Schools nationwide are still recovering from the changes introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) data, Washington has improved in several areas over the last two years.

Student attendance is one factor at Washington public schools that has increased this school year.

School Hours and Calendar - MSD Washington Township
School Hours and Calendar – MSD Washington Township

According to the OSPI, 69.7% of public school students attend school regularly, meaning they miss no more than two days of class every month. This is an increase of 2.5% from the 2021-22 school year.

“Attending school regularly, passing all their classes in ninth grade, and completing advanced-level coursework all prepare students for their unique future pathways. I am so proud of our students for their efforts and of educators and district staff for supporting them,” Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said in a press release.

“Being persistent matters a lot. It’s a skill that you build for success down the road,” Reykdal said.

He said skipping out on school became all too common during the height of the pandemic.

Superintendent Reykdal sat down with KING 5 in a one-on-one interview Wednesday.

“Do you feel good about that?” KING 5’s Maddie White asked.

“Well, we’re re-norming school, right? During the pandemic, both the workforce and students they got really comfortable with, like, ‘As long as I get my work done, it doesn’t really matter where it is.’ But school should be different.”

He added, “We have a ways to go. But it’s very, very positive.”

He said the state’s district superintendents help him focus his efforts.

“Our job is just to hear them and what they need and try to get that to the legislature,” said Reykdal.

Now, Reykdal and his staff are taking their takeaways from the OSPI building to the State Capitol building. 

He is stating his support for Senate Bill 5408, for example, because one-time federal funding they had received for absentee intervention is “going away.” The bill would fund in-school supports for prevention of chronic absenteeism.

In some cases, it would fund a single, dedicated position in schools.

“They’re calling kids. ‘Hey, Sarah, I noticed you weren’t here today. Everything okay? What do we need to do to support you?’”

He is working to convince legislators that it will help Washington public schools reach their attendance goals. We asked what Reykdal’s goal looks like at the moment.

“We want to see the kind of steady progress in the next couple of years we look at, where we’d say we’re, once again, approaching that 90%, 85% kind of a level,” said Reykdal.

According to the OSPI report, more students are also completing dual credit or college-level credits while still in high school. During the 2022–23 school year, 64.5% of high school students completed one of these courses, an increase of 1.4% from the 2021–22 school year.

Tacoma Public Schools also reported a district-wide 91.1% graduation rate, the highest on record.

However, Washington public schools still suffer from low enrollment, which decreased substantially during the pandemic.

The five largest school districts in Washington reported dips in enrollment since the beginning of the pandemic. According to 2023 data, public school enrollment in the state dropped by more than 60,000 students. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, state data shows 1,140,973 kids enrolled in public schooling. Compare that to just 1,074,078 students in the 2022-23 school year. That’s a drop of 66,895 students.