In the School District of Philadelphia's public high schools absenteeism averages nearly 20%; and the 14 worst high schools average nearly 30%.1 That means almost 1/5 of high school youngsters are absent on any given day. And we aren't even counting the large number of kids who come in an hour or more late. Yet their teachers are held accountable when absent kids score poorly on high stakes tests. Indeed, the entire school is held to account by No Child Left Behind.
NCLB requires that states and districts include at least 95% of all students, (including the disability subgroup) in assessment results in order to meet the accountability requirements. The 5% is supposed to allow for absenteeism and other events not under the school’s control."2
Plainly, the law presupposes that no more than 5% of the youngsters in any school will be chronically absent. Yet the earlier noted 30% absentee rate alone gives the lie to this. The fact is that there are many schools where this 5% allowance for intervening variables is so low as to be laughable.
2. Accountability for Assessment Results in the No Child Left Behind Act, National Center on Educational Outcomes, http://cehd.umn.edu/nceo/OnlinePubs/NCLBdisabilities.html