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December 23, 2012

In Madison high schools, 1 in 4 black students chronically absent

Matthew DeFour:

The district expects the attendance rate of minority students will improve as a result of strategies adopted in the district's $7.5 million plan to close the disparity in achievement between minority and white students, said Joe Gothard, assistant superintendent for secondary schools.

The strategies include adding staff to work with parents at four elementary schools, expanding its culturally relevant practices program to help students understand the importance of school and implementing a new, $250,000 early warning system that among other things alerts principals when students are missing too much school. Previously principals had to track the attendance data themselves.

Gothard, a former La Follette High School principal, said when he would contact parents about absenteeism the reaction often was surprise.

"We know that we need our students in our schools in their seats to achieve," Gothard said. "Attendance and time in school is definitely at the top of our list in strategies and partnerships that we have to put in place."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at December 23, 2012 8:47 AM
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A missing issue which is seemingly misunderstood or ignored is is absentiism a cause or an effect of poor academics. There is certainly going to be a feedback loop which has a spiralingly negative effect which must be addressed.

When kids are doing poorly in school and the school is not addressing the problems in effective ways, why should the kids come to school? If the school is not a safe or nurturing environment for such kids, is there a reason to attend, or better yet, are there good reasons not to attend?

Lack of attendance looks bad on a school's record so schools want the kids to attend regardless of whether the school is providing or can provide an education to the kids. A good attendance statistic for a school is not a useful statistic for measuring effectiveness.

Posted by: Larry Winkler at December 23, 2012 9:57 PM
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