Building on the groundbreaking Missing Students project, the AP’s Education team and a Stanford educational economist analyzed data from before and after the pandemic in 40 states and Washington, D.C., to show the scope of the nation’s crisis in school attendance. It was the most comprehensive accounting of the post-pandemic increase in chronically absent kids, or those who miss 10% or more of each school year.  

Data journalist Sharon Lurye hounded states to confirm the accuracy of stunning figures such as Alaska’s, where nearly 50% of kids were chronically absent in 2021–2022, according to the most recent data available. Education accountability reporter Bianca Vázquez Toness rooted the data reporting in families’ stories, showing the breadth and complexity of the attendance crisis. As in the project’s first installment, Peter Hamlin powerfully illustrated the crisis, showing students disappearing from school, while interactive graphics created by Eunice Esomonu showed how chronic absenteeism had worsened in every single state.   

The story built on another reporting project by Cheyanne Mumphrey, who spent months establishing trust with a recently homeless family in Phoenix. She showed what happens when schools lose track of vulnerable kids — and the need for urgency in reengaging them.  

Days before publishing the absenteeism story, the Education team shared the data, reporting and assets with nearly 50 local and nonprofit newsrooms, many in states with the most alarming rates of chronic absenteeism. Fifty journalists joined a call with AP reporters and Thomas Dee, the Stanford professor, to learn about the data and ask questions for their local audiences, and many of them used the data to write their own local story or localize the AP story.