Chronic absenteeism skyrockets in Providence schools

June 24, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — This school year, 60% of Providence students were chronically absent, according to data reviewed by WPRI-TV.

Absenteeism skyrocketed in the Rhode Island school district with every public school reporting an increase in chronic absenteeism — a student missing at least 10% of school days, amounting to roughly 18 days.

Last year, 37% of students were chronically absent — state officials targeted this figure for improvement when they took over the district before the pandemic.

“This is something that no one has experienced before,” said Khechara Bradford, deputy superintendent of learning for Providence schools. “I’ve never seen numbers with this many students absent.”

The district opted against enforcing the attendance policy this year so that students could prioritize their health and safety.


First-grade teacher Melissa Palumbo argues that the true absence numbers could be even higher. Palumbo said that Virtual Learning Academy instructors were told to mark students present if they answered the “question of the day” on a Google form, even if they did not log into Zoom classes.

“Short of going to their house and opening the computer and putting them on, there was really nothing else we could do,” she said.