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Topics / Improving Schools & Systems

Three Million Children Are Currently Without Formal Education, New Report Warns

Carnegie Corporation grantee Bellwether Education Partners sounds the alarm on an attendance crisis with long-term societal consequences


As schools around the country continue to grapple with pandemic-related learning loss, Bellwether Education Partners, a Carnegie Corporation of New York grantee, estimates that as many as 3 million children — the majority of them already the most “educationally marginalized” in the country — have gone without any type of formal education since March.

In Missing in the Margins: Estimating the Scale of the COVID-19 Attendance Crisis, Bellwether describes the missing students as lacking home internet or computers, English learners and children with disabilities, kids in foster care or who are homeless, and children who have transitioned to formal or informal work or are providing learning support to younger siblings.

The report recommends some steps that district leaders can take to address the crisis, including collecting and reporting attendance data in real time, identifying and following up with individual students who have gone missing, coordinating services to meet these students’ unmet needs, and the development and implementation of attendance interventions that avoid punitive methods.  

 “There is not enough public recognition of the serious challenges facing America’s most vulnerable students at this moment or of the consequences if millions continue to be disconnected from schools and other support systems indefinitely,” the authors of Missing in the Margins conclude. “Not only are educational futures at stake, but in some severe cases, students’ basic safety and well-being are in jeopardy.”



Top:  An empty high school classroom in Hollywood, California, August 13, 2020. (Credit: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)