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March 30, 2017
Colorado schools soon will be judged by a new measure: How many students are chronically absent
Colorado's decision to make chronic absenteeism one of the factors it uses in gauging school success could push more districts to adopt or expand programs to address it.
More than scores
July 20, 2016
Beyond test scores, Tennessee looks at how to evaluate districts and schools under ESSA
With the switch to ESSA looming, state leaders consider which metrics to include in the state's accountability plan.
February 11, 2013
Officials reassess state tests in wake of attendance disruptions
ALBANY — As state exams near, education officials are growing increasingly anxious about the large swath of city students whose schooling has been interrupted this year by Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing school bus drivers' strike. Speaking to members of the Board of Regents at their monthly meeting today, Chancellor Merryl Tisch said she thought students with disabilities who have not been able to get to school should not have to take the state's math and reading tests in April. "I'm not comfortable asking this population to sit for state exams when they have missed chunks of the school year," said Tisch, who pressed State Education Commissioner John King on the State Education Department's authority to waive test requirements. The city is mulling its options about how to use the test results of students with a high number of unavoidable absences, a spokeswoman said today.
the truant chase
September 12, 2012
More students get attendance mentors in program’s third year
After testing a range of strategies to combat truancy, the city is settling on one that’s close to home: matching students with a mentor within their…
March 30, 2012
From Buffalo, a warning for local consensus on absent students
The city and teachers union aren't anywhere close to settling on new teacher evaluations. But if and when they do strike a deal, they might have to revisit a point of agreement. Leo Casey, a teachers union official, told me recently that before negotiations broke down in December, the city and UFT had agreed that only students with a minimum attendance rate should be counted in teachers' scores. Exactly what that rate would be was still up for discussion, Casey said, but everyone agreed on the basic principle that if students aren't in class to learn, it's not fair to hold teachers responsible for their learning. It's an outlook that teachers at schools under threat of closure have shared over and over. At Washington Irving High School, teachers protesting the city's ultimately successful closure proposal argued that the school would have much stronger performance data if the city excluded the school's many "long-term absences" from its progress report calculations. It's also a point that united Buffalo and its teachers union as they negotiated a new teacher evaluation system earlier this year for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants. In February, they settled on a system that would exclude chronically absent students from the student growth portion of evaluations. But the State Education Department rejected that portion of their compromise. In the rejection letter, Education Commissioner John King explained that Buffalo's evaluation system would have applied the attendance provision to the 20 percent of evaluations that the state controls, and that's not allowed. But another problem, he wrote, was that the provision could be abused.
November 10, 2011
A student says the city's anti-truancy push changed her life
Jean Robinson, a senior at the High School for Teaching and the Professions, speaks at a press conference Wednesday about truancy reduction. As the new kid at the High School of Teaching and The Professions in the Bronx two years ago, Jean Robinson awoke each morning filled with dread and anxiety about going to school. "You know, everybody has their own different cliques and I wasn't really fitting in with any of them," Robinson said. A sophomore transfer, Robinson missed her old friends and began skipping school. Over the course of the 2009-2010 school year, she missed more than a month of school and, with each passing day, knew a high school diploma was further and further out of reach. "I thought about it every day, but I just felt like I needed that extra push," Robinson said. "I didn't have that at the time." Robinson's paltry attendance rate caught the eyes of city officials, who at the same time were launching a citywide push to raise attendance rates among students who were absent most often. They paired Robinson with a mentor who monitored her attendance and made sure she was showing up to school. With the help from her mentor, a school guidance counselor, Robinson last year reduced her absence rate by more than 50 percent, missing just 10 days of school. Robinson's turnaround was touted by Mayor Bloomberg as a success story of the year-old attendance initiative called "Every Student, Every Day," which, in addition to mentors, included letters home to parents and celebrity wake-up calls. As a result of the first year's success, Bloomberg announced Wednesday that the city was more than doubling the initiative's scope, from 25 schools to 50 schools with more than 4,000 students.
February 10, 2011
City takes to the phones in battle against chronic absenteeism
Last year, the city launched a campaign to reduce absenteeism with a letter home. Today, it's following up with a phone call. Students from 25 schools who have missed 10 or more days this year will soon start receiving early-morning wake-up calls from celebrities such as Magic Johnson and the rapper Big Boi, the city announced today. The calls, which city officials say will eventually be made to frequently absent students in all schools, mark the second phase in the city's push to boost attendance. The first phase, which launched in August, marshaled resources from across city agencies to target the most frequently truant students at the 25 schools. Extreme absenteeism is down at those schools, the city said today. The attendance initiatives follow a 2009 report by Center for New York City researchers that revealed that the city's 91 percent average attendance rate masks chronic absenteeism among a fifth of students. The pitfalls of tardiness are explored in two pieces in the GothamSchools Community section today, coincidentally enough. Collin Lawrence, a former teacher who has been recounting his four years working at a small high school in Brooklyn, writes that no one seemed to care that few students got to school when it started. And launching a new column, Bronx high school college counselor Brendan Lowe describes waking up at 5:30 a.m. last month to call students scheduled to take the SAT. Lowe writes: Crazy? Perhaps. Did we help our students? In a short-term sense, absolutely. Last year, 40 of 59 students (67 percent) failed to show up for their first sitting of the SAT, thereby wasting one of two possible fee waivers. This year, 57 of 60 students — 95 percent — actually took the test. The city's complete press release is below:
August 19, 2010
Push to boost attendance begins with a single letter home
The city sent letters to the parents of more than 5,000 frequently absent students today, urging them to make sure their children come to school in September. When school starts, phone calls will follow the letters, Mayor Bloomberg said today, describing the first fruits of the interagency task force on chronic absenteeism he convened in June. Following the task force's recommendations, the city is launching a campaign to boost attendance among the most absent students at 25 schools. Bloomberg announced the campaign, called "Every Student, Every Day," today at Brooklyn's PS 345, where 91 percent of students attended on average last year. The city's 90.74 percent average attendance masks the fact that 20 percent of students missed more than 20 days of school last year, Bloomberg said. That figure was first reported by Center for New York City researchers in a 2009 report that called on the city to marshal the efforts of city agencies and community groups. The 25 schools participating in the Every Student, Every Day pilot will assign volunteers from programs such as City Year, Citizen Schools, and Learning Leaders to mentor the most frequently absent 1,500 students. They'll also host special attendance-focused parent meetings early this fall.
November 12, 2008
Attendance only peripheral to DOE accountability initiatives
Inspired by a recent report that many elementary school students missed more than a month of school last year, the general welfare and education committees of the City Council just concluded a hearing about absenteeism in the city's schools. One question that surely came up is how the Department of Education holds schools and students accountable for attendance. The answer: not as much as it could. In the centerpiece of the DOE's accountability system, the school progress reports, a school's average attendance accounts for 5 percent of its grade, the same proportion as teacher and parent surveys. The DOE chooses to base 85 percent of schools' progress report grades on test scores because attendance on its own simply doesn't ensure success, officials say. "Most students do attend school regularly, but many of them do not get the outcomes we believe they should be getting," DOE spokeswoman Maibe Gonzalez-Fuentes recently told me. And what about accountability for individual students? Teachers can assign students failing grades for assignments they miss during an unauthorized absence. But DOE regulations don't require students to attend school a certain amount of the time to be promoted.
October 24, 2008
A teacher’s-eye-view of chronic absenteeism
Even when kids are in school, they’re not always in class, reports Bronx science teacher Ms. Rubin: Nothing too out of the ordinary…
October 21, 2008
Report: Missing school, common in NYC, sets kids up for failure
High school students are not the only ones missing school. Chronic absenteeism in the elementary grades is a major problem, too, especially in districts…
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