How much should school districts care about a child’s absenteeism?
It's enough that we have to accept that public education still exists in this country when it's such an antiquated concept, Especially in this state, where it tends to cost more and achieve less.
But the idea that school knows how many days my kids have to be there--and know that better than I do--is ridiculous.
If I'm the parent, I should be able to take my child out of school for any reason with no excuses, because theoretically I'm involved and I am monitoring how he's doing and keeping him on task.
If he only needs to be there 25% of the time to achieve a passing grade, then so be it. As long as he can do well, (or even just passing if that's okay for us) what does it matter how many days he's there?
According to a report released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) nearly half of Newark's High School students were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year. And it's been that way for years. And, it's triple the state average.
But how much should a school really care about its kids absenteeism? I know that when I was in school, there were certain classes that I absolutely had to attend daily in order to be able to do well in them. If I missed one day, I had to get notes and have concepts explain to me.
On the other hand, they were classes where I could do equally well just showing up for the overall concepts and taking tests. Yes, there might be some independent study I had to do and yeah--maybe I wouldn't have aced every exam but I guarantee you: if you care and you apply yourself, you can get a high school diploma even if you miss half or even 3/4 of the year.
The difference is: you've got to care. Newark's statistics probably don't surprise anyone. So the question is not how many days a kid is absent, but how much do he and his family really care about school and education in general?
So I propose a little social experiment: relax all attendance standards in all public schools and have parents--and parents ONLY monitoring how often their children attend school.
I guarantee you that families who are intact, supportive, present, caring, and really committed to their kids education will have students who do well anyway.
Newark families may be missing some or all of the above ingredients. Much like public education funding (read: actual dollars) in NJ, a child's actual presence in the classroom as a factor in his success is overrated.
So perhaps the question is not, "How much are you there?" But rather, "How much do you care?"
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