Skip Navigation

More than 80 Percent of U.S. Public Schools Report Pandemic Has Negatively Impacted Student Behavior and Socio-Emotional Development
July 6, 2022

New NCES data also show increase in student and teacher absenteeism

WASHINGTON (July 6, 2022)—Eighty-seven percent of public schools reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted student socio-emotional development during the 2021–22 school year, according to data released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES is the statistical office of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Similarly, 84 percent of public schools agreed or strongly agreed that students’ behavioral development has also been negatively impacted.

Specifically, respondents attributed increased incidents of classroom disruptions from student misconduct (56 percent), rowdiness outside of the classroom (49 percent), acts of disrespect towards teachers and staff (48 percent), and prohibited use of electronic devices (42 percent) to the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects.

“Students thrive in an environment with effective social, emotional, and behavioral support,” said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr. “So when we see 72 percent of our public schools report an increase in chronic absenteeism among our students, it poses an opportunity for education leaders to act quickly using tested approaches that work. It is our responsibility at NCES to disseminate data describing the severity of the situation.”

In addition to student behavior in school, school leaders were asked about student chronic absenteeism—defined as those missing at least 10 percent of the school year. School leaders reported increased student absenteeism as a COVID-19-related problem consistently across a wide range of school types, including in elementary schools (75 percent), schools with lower student poverty rates (73 percent), and rural schools (71 percent).

Additionally, problems that stemmed from teachers being absent more often were exacerbated by the fact that 77 percent of public schools also reported that finding substitute teachers has become more difficult during the pandemic. Compared to the 2020–21 school year, 61 percent of public schools reported that finding substitute teachers is difficult.

“Data from the monthly study are critical for understanding challenges our public schools are facing in real time, allowing policymakers to provide timely help,” said NCES Associate Commissioner Chris Chapman. “We are continuously grateful to the public primary, middle, high, and combined-grade schools that participated.”

The findings released today are part of the sixth experimental data product from the School Pulse Panel—the latest round of the monthly data collection. The May data were collected from a total of 846 participating schools between May 10 and May 24, 2022.

The School Pulse Panel is part of NCES’s innovative approach to delivering timely information regarding the pandemic’s impact on public K–12 schools in the U.S. The May survey provides reliable data focused on teacher absences and the availability of substitute teachers, learning modes offered by schools, student and staff quarantine prevalence, mental health, absenteeism, and classroom management as reported by principals in U.S. public schools.

Experimental data products are innovative statistical products created using new data sources or methodologies. Experimental data may not meet all NCES quality standards but are of sufficient benefit to data users in the absence of other relevant products to justify release. NCES clearly identifies experimental data products upon their release.

The data released today can be found at the COVID-19 dashboard at

Key Findings

Student Behavior and Development

Student and Teacher Absenteeism and Need for Substitute Teachers

Learning Modes and Quarantine Prevalence

The data released today can be found at the COVID-19 dashboard at

(NOTE: On July 12, 2022, NCES updated this news release. The estimate of public schools which agreed or strongly agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the behavioral development of students at their school is 84%, or one percentage point higher than initially reported.)


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES, located within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent and nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.

Contact: National Center for Education Statistics
Annual Reports and Information Staff or James Elias, Hager Sharp,