Friday, March 25, 2011

You can’t teach kids when they aren’t in school.

Articles like this one, by Karen Ann Cullotta in the New York Times yesterday, feature the lengths administrators go to to get kids to show up at school. It is important work; absenteeism is one of the biggest problems in education, and complicates everything else schools are trying to do. (Including value-added scores for teachers: If a student fails to make a year’s worth of progress but was only in class half the time, is that a measure of the teacher’s abilities? The best VA models account for absenteeism but not all do—what is the case in the school system you cover?)

I think it is time for journalists to take another step forward on this topic. Coming to school, or getting a kid to school, reflects choices made by children and their families, not just efforts or lack thereof by administrators. So the next phase of articles should focus on them, their decision-making, their daily rhythms. Why do they say they don’t show up, and what policies and efforts do they say would make a difference? 

1 comment:

  1. Keep up your efforts of encouraging the media to cover school absenteeism. Those of us who have taught K-12 in the public schools know that absenteeism is a huge factor in student learning and, hence, standardized test scores, evaluation of teacher and school performance, dropout rates, etc. Getting some students to attend school is a big challenge, and teaching "at risk" classes is difficult with often a constant turnover in who's in class from day to day due to absenteeism.