Monday, June 27, 2016

CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM: BUT WHAT'S THE REAL PROBLEM?

Gary K. Clabaugh
Emeritus Professor of Education, La Salle University

According to the Education Department's new Civil Rights Data Collection about 13 percent of all U.S. students — more than 6 million—missed at least 15 days of school in the 2013-14 school year. The survey includes a variety of often-neglected reasons including excused or unexcused absences, truancy, suspensions, illness, or family issues.

Utilizing this new data the Associated Press found that "of the 100 largest school districts by enrollment, the Detroit City School District had the highest rate of chronic absenteeism. Nearly 58 percent of students were chronically absent in the 2013-2014 school year." Numerous other big city districts, such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, were close behind.

Secretary of Education John King says that, "Chronic absenteeism is a national problem. He then emphasizes the obvious, namely that, “Frequent absences from school can be devastating to a child's education. Missing school leads to low academic achievement and triggers drop-outs. Millions of young people are missing opportunities in postsecondary education, good careers and a chance to experience the American dream."

Predictably the Secretary wants educators to address the “root cause of this problem.” But the root cause is neither schools nor education. Anyone with an IQ above room temperature knows youngsters are chronically absent in such prodigious numbers because they are hungry, sick, scared, angry, alienated, indifferent or think they have no future worth worrying about. So how, pray tell, are educators supposed to deal with all of this?

 Brown points to the “American dream” without recognizing the all too real American nightmare. What is that? Dysfunctional family life, deteriorated neighborhoods, below poverty level wages, chronic under or unemployment, drug addiction, alcoholism, fatherless families, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, the massively unfair distribution of our national wealth, and politicians who are bought and paid for.

Secretary Brown’s solemn hogwash is just one more example of the disingenuous bullshit we have come to expect from federal officials. Consider their latest intrusion into public education, the inanely named Every Student Succeeds Act. Every student will succeed when pigs fly! These fools and charlatans should spare us their silly posturing and get serious for a change.

See "Solemnity and Seriousness," newfoundations.com


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