Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chronic Absence - 90,000 a month or more

NY Times on the issue.

Leonie Haimson reports:

The Milano school report on the problem of chronic absenteeism in elementary schools is posted here: http://www.newschool.edu/milano/nycaffairs/strengthening_schools.html


The center’s analysis of Department of Education (DOE) data found that more than 20 percent of the city’s elementary school pupils were chronically absent during the 2007–08 school year—that is, they missed at least 20 days of the 185-day school year. In districts serving poor neighborhoods, the numbers are even higher. In the south and central Bronx, in central Harlem, and in several neighborhoods in central Brooklyn, 30 percent or more of the pupils were chronically absent, according to the analysis. In contrast, only 5.2 percent of pupils were chronically absent in District 26, which serves the middle class neighborhood of Bayside, Queens… Of the 725 public schools serving elementary grades (excluding charter schools and schools serving severely disabled children), 165 have chronic absentee rates of 30 percent or more…

There are bureaucratic reasons as well. For example, when the building housing P.S. 2 in the
Morrisania section of the Bronx was redesigned to serve high school students, the younger children were reassigned to a school building nearly half a mile away. A large number of pupils simply don’t make it to the new location every day. At P.S. 2, an astonishing 42 percent of the students had more than 20 absences in the 2007–08 school year, according to the analysis of DOE data by the Center.

New York City parents have also long complained of erratic and unpredictable school bus service. Children who take school buses tend to have lower rates of attendance than those who walk to school, because a child who misses a bus may have no other way to get to school, according to school officials. Special education students can be inexplicably assigned to schools on the other end of their borough, reports one Bronx family worker.




Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott will speak at a forum addressing the impact of chronic absenteeism in New York City public schools, following the release of a report from The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, Strengthening Schools by Strengthening Families. Deputy Mayor Walcott will talk about the importance of creating in all schools a culture that recognizes that failure for our students, regardless of their family or life circumstances, is not an option. He will also reinforce the Department of Education’s efforts to hold schools accountable for students’ academic achievement, and highlight efforts to combat chronic absenteeism and the role of community collaboration and partnerships in that work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am also a Canarsie Teacher. I hope this piece on the 90,000 absentees will awaken some sense in the DOE and parents. We also have an astronomical absenteeism rate at Canarsie High School. This is the 2nd marking period. I have kids coming in now for the first time in the semester. Those who think we teachers at Canarsie were ruining their children should get an absence log for them from the school. Yes, I have children with 21 absences so far, who have never taken a test. One high numbered absentee had the gall to ask me why I failed her. She has no grades. Did I miss something? Are we passing them without grades?
Tenured teachers are in a bind these days, do we lie to the children, their parents and ourselves and pass them, or hold on to our integrity and fail them and incur the wrath of the DOE? That is the conundrum at Canarsie. Canarsie has good teachers; it needs discipline for the children, and good guidance for the school. Doe can make us all ATRs, but I tell you I saw some children rolling over a new school teacher today. Accountability, the first part of that is the DOE's accountability to the parents, to run the schools in such a way that children are in the classrooms, that the vulgar language is not tolerated anywhere in the school building, and that teachers can teach as they were trained to do. Teachers are blamed for things beyond their control. DOE can scream accountability all they want, but without discipline, supporting the teachers, new, ATR or tenured, all the talk about academic achievement, collaborative teaching and accountability will be just that, talk. DOE should check the absenteeism rate at Canarsie High before firing teachers unfairly.