In Maryland’s largest school district, described in the Washington Post as “one of the nation’s best,” graduation rates are high, but may “reflect policy changes that have made it easier to pass courses, recover from failing grades and be out of class — even though schools routinely say students must attend classes.”
Post reporters Donna St. George and Justin Wm. Moyer uncovered data from one high school in Montgomery County showing that roughly 40 percent of seniors at one high school missed large chunks of instruction last school year, not showing up for some classes 10 to more than 50 times in a semester.
St. George and Moyer write that:
Records from Einstein High provide telling details about what students miss: One senior skipped algebra 36 times last spring. Another racked up 47 unexcused absences in English. Still another was gone for more than half a semester of chemistry.
School system officials emphasized in interviews that unexcused absences do not directly factor into course grades. That’s part of the system’s “standards-based” approach, which focuses on student learning, not attendance, they said.
While the Montgomery County Public Schools have backed away from punishing students for excessive absences, the district says it is using other strategies to boost attendance.
The issue of chronic absenteeism has been in the spotlight nationwide and most states now use reducing absenteeism as one of their measures of school performance under the Every Student Succeeds Act. School districts are experimenting with different approaches to battling the problem.
One approach that seems not to be working to boost attendance is giving students rewards for high attendance. A study by Todd Rogers and Carly Robinson published earlier this year found that students who received awards for good attendance went on to miss more days of school.
In an article for Education Next, Rogers and Robinson describe the study and look at some more effective ways to combat chronic absenteeism.
– Education Next