Report shows 1-in-4 Iowa students chronically absent from school


(The Center Square) – Twenty-six percent of Iowa students are considered chronically absent, according to a new report that measures the well-being of children.

The 2024 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Iowa 7th in the country overall but shows the state is worsening in some areas. The report is based on data from 2019 to 2022.

Academic outcomes are worsening, with 67% of the state’s fourth graders not proficient in reading compared to 65% in 2019. Seventy-two percent of the state’s third graders are not skilled in math, an increase from 67% in 2019, according to the report.

Nationally, 68% of fourth graders lack reading proficiency and 74% of the states third graders do not have adept math skills, according to the report.

The report’s authors said that as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions eased in 2022, the effects on children became evident.

“Between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of children scoring proficient or above in reading and math declined sharply,” the report said. “While this trend may have stabilized in 2022, the data indicate a significant setback in educational attainment.”

The report does not blame pandemic restrictions entirely, said Anne Discher, executive director of Common Good Iowa, in a blog post.

“Compared to peer nations, the United States is not equipping its children with the high-level reading, math and digital problem-solving skills needed for many of today’s fastest-growing occupations in a highly competitive global economy,” Discher said.

Iowa ranked third in the country for economic well-being. Only 4% of teens are not working and not in school, up from 7% in 2019.

The number of children living in poverty improved from 13% to 12%, with 3% living in high poverty levels, according to the report. The national average for children living in poverty is 16%, with 7% living in high-poverty areas.

Four percent of Iowa children did not have health insurance, compared to the national average of 5%, the report said.

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