Thursday, October 8, 2015

Administration Launches Push To Fight Chronic Absenteeism.

The Washington Post (10/8, Brown) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, incoming acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr., HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and My Brother’s Keeper chief Broderick D. Johnson on Wednesday announced that the Administration “will begin publishing data on chronic absenteeism rates at schools nationwide, part of a campaign meant to highlight and address the problem of poor attendance.” The article cites data showing how chronic absenteeism leads to negative academic outcomes, but notes that “many school districts and reform strategies have failed to tackle the issue.” The “Every Student, Every Day” campaign aims “to help districts identify which children are missing school too often and figure out what kind of help those children need.” The Post quotes Duncan saying, “Great teachers matter, great principals matter, but they can’t work their magic if our babies aren’t in school. I really think it is about saving kids’ lives. If kids are missing a month of school, or two months or three months, there is nothing positive that can come of that.”
        The AP (10/8, Kerr) reports that the plan calls for schools to provide “mentors and other support for students who miss too much classroom time — instead of suspending or expelling them.” The AP notes that as many as 7.5 million students are chronically absent from US schools each year, meaning they have missed at last 18 days. ED “says frequent absences can lead to school children falling behind academically and failing to graduation on time.” Federal officials say that schools should “revise discipline policies to remove punitive consequences such as suspensions and expulsions for chronically absent students,” and should spend more effort to “see why these kids are absent so often.”
        Evie Blad writes at the Education Week (10/8) “Rules for Engagement” blog that the officials made the announcement at Patterson Elementary School in Washington, DC. She notes that while the government “doesn’t seem to be announcing substantial new resources,” there will be a toolkit with “guidance from all of the involved federal agencies.” Moreover, next year’s Civil Rights Data Collection “will include the first-ever school-level data on all students who missed at least 15 days of school for any reason during the 2013-14 school year.”
        NBC News (10/8), the Baltimore Sun (10/7), and WMDT-TV Salisbury, MD (10/8) also cover this story.

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