Thursday, April 18, 2024
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City needs to end rampant school absenteeism


Just before schools reopened last week, the city Department of Education reported that chronic absenteeism hit 36.2% last school year — meaning that hundreds of thousands of kids missed at least 10% of the 180-day school year.

It was a slight improvement from the year before when citywide DOE-school chronic absenteeism hit a staggering 40%.

Worse, more than 55% of high school seniors missed at least 18 days of school in the 2021-2022 year.

Getting the rate down to “just” 36% is still a failure, a clear sign the disaster will continue until and unless Chancellor David Banks lights a fire under the entire school bureaucracy to get serious about change.

Chronic absenteeism makes it impossible to learn and leads to dropping out, delinquency, and wasted lives.

The problem grew nationwide in the wake of the pandemic  — not just because of school closures, but because parents (lower-income ones, especially) fell prey to overwrought COVID fears.

But the city’s rate far exceeds the national chronic absenteeism of roughly 25%, as reported by the Associated Press.


Just before schools reopened last week, the city Department of Education reported that chronic absenteeism hit 36.2% last school year.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Of course, one reason it’s so bad in the city is that missing class and/or the entire day no longer automatically hurts your grades in most schools, thanks to policies adopted in the name of “equity.”

That idiocy needs to go out the window immediately.

More importantly, city schools don’t make remotely enough effort to hound parents when their kids don’t show.

Sending a text or leaving a voicemail isn’t enough, let alone giving up when the one number you have no longer works.

As the school year starts, every front office needs to get multiple contact numbers for each student’s parents and close relations.

Each school needs sufficient dedicated staff calling all those numbers every morning the child doesn’t show up until they reach a responsible adult to take action.

If the problem persists, home visits are a must — with follow-ups until the kids show up every day.

This is not “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”; it’s tens and hundreds of thousands of children getting away with giving up any reasonable hope of becoming functional adult members of society.

The DOE is swimming in state and federal cash meant to combat learning loss and otherwise recover from COVID; this should be a prime use of those funds.  

As things stand, far too many schools (and school staff) just shrug: It’s less work for the adults if the kids just don’t show, and truants are all too likely to be the toughest children to handle when they do attend.

And most of the central bureaucracy specializes in making excuses, not in finding solutions.

Banks talks a great game on demanding more, but he’s got to find ways to get results or all his admirable reforms in theory won’t make a dime’s worth of difference: Children can’t learn if they’re not there.



This story originally appeared on NYPost

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