More New Jersey students are consistently missing school now than prior to the pandemic.

Below is a rundown of the schools in New Jersey with the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the 2022-23 academic year.

The rate of chronic absenteeism — students missing at least 10% of the school year — is approaching 17% in the Garden State, according to 2022-23 data from the New Jersey Department of Education. It was above 18% in 2021-22.

The rate was under 11% before COVID forced schools to shut down in 2020 and switch to remote learning.

John Paul Simon, assistant director of NJ4S (NJ Statewide Student Support Services) Bergen Hub, said chronic absenteeism is one "symptom" of decreased motivation since the pandemic.

Missing school, though, isn't always the product of students simply choosing they don't want to learn that day, nor is it a definitive sign of trouble at home.

"What else is keeping them away? Perhaps they feel safer at home. Perhaps they feel more stable at home," Simon said.

The issue needs to be addressed, Simon said, because students are missing out on more than history and science lessons — school provides a regular opportunity for social development.

New Jersey reacts to absenteeism

On April 3, the state Department of Education put out a memo that specifically addresses chronic absenteeism.

"The NJDOE operates with the researched-based understanding that positive school climate and culture can help prevent chronic absenteeism and foster regular student attendance," the memo says. "When students feel safe, supported, and engaged, they are more likely to attend school consistently."

Chronic absenteeism is on the rise nationally as well, from 15% pre-pandemic to 26% during the 2022-23 school year.

NJ schools with the worst attendance problems

These 30 schools had the highest rate of chronic absenteeism in the 2022-23 school year. Data is for the New Jersey Department of Education's annual NJ School Performance Reports.

Gallery Credit: New Jersey 101.5

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