Opinion: A School Too Far: Is School Choice Unraveling Education Reform In New York City?

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, June 14, 2012

It would appear that when students don't attend school, they don't get educated in ways that are productive for them in particular, and society at large.

Teachers have long known this to be the case. Now the issue is being joined by politicians, fueled by a Johns Hopkins study that found that 15% of American school children have been labeled chronically absent for missing one school day in ten. In New York City the number is 20%.

With only a few weeks remaining in the current school year, New York City has launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign that asks, "It's 9:00 AM Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?"

Prior attempts at reducing truancy have included celebrity messages and "robo" calls made to the homes of the chronically absent by famous rappers to encourage attendance. Parental responsibility remains a touchy issue. While Bloomberg pointed his finger at parents, he maintained that it's up to the schools to ensure that their students are in attendance.

The problem isn't unique to New York City. Buffalo's teachers refused to have students who were chronically absent factored into their evaluations. The state refused to release Race To The Top monies until an agreement was reached. But there were no solutions that offered any real hope of reversing the staggering number of truants, save the tired nostrums of increased counseling and more parent outreach.

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