Student Disengagement is Skyrocketing

Student anxiety and burnout are at an all-time high in K-12 schools. Increased risk of social isolation, alcohol, tobacco use, and unhealthy eating habits are showing up in new behavioral health surveys. Other increased stressors are becoming apparent too, including academic underachievement, bullying, and general feelings of stress. Student disengagement appears to be skyrocketing.

Instead of bringing relief from the pandemic, returning to schools has compounded the stresses, aggravations, and disengagement students have experienced across the board. Generally speaking, students are not relieved to be back in classrooms. They are not comforted by the routines of traditional classroom schedules. They are not achieving because of standardized curriculum; they are not effectively measured by pre-pandemic testing requirements; they are not substantially supported by the inadequacies of learning, teaching, and leadership in education today.

In all grades, more students than ever seem more irritable, are having trouble sleeping, and seem to be regressing developmentally. This affects everyone in the educational ecology. Even in the beginning of this post-pandemic period, parents are experiencing increased stressors from their students, and teachers are facing more challenges than ever. Nationwide, districts are distressed by both the amount of turnover among the teaching cadre as well as the low numbers of recruits coming into the profession. All school support and leadership roles are stressed, too, with school counselors, autism specialists, principals, and others reporting high retention issues across the board.

Signs of Student Disengagement

Student disengagement takes a lot of forms. Sometimes it is very obvious, and others its subtle; it can be intentional and coincidental also. Here are some signs of student disengagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Feeling physically exhausted
  • Not being able to handle usual tasks
  • Feeling annoyed easily
  • Not responding to questions, assignments or tasks
  • Experiencing emotional apathy or exhaustion
  • Participating the bare minimum and not more
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increased sarcasm or snappy comments

Working through my project called SoundOut, I have created a series of practical, powerful, and pragmatic tools for educators and students to foster student engagement. They include:

Is your school experiencing these realities post-pandemic? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below and let me know what’s happening where you are.

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Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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