Chronically absent students will graduate

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By Cheryl Coleman

The District of Columbia council has approved a measure that would allow chronically absent students to graduate from high school and allow chronically absent elementary and middle school students to not be retained.  As the law currently stands, students who miss 30 or more days from school are supposed to fail and be retained in their grade since/ Now under this new measure, students will get rewarded for not showing up to class - interesting right? DC has been under the radar for graduation scandals in the past, now this. The school system is showing students they do not have to follow the rules and they'll get rewarded for it. Is there a different incentive for students who do the right thing and show up every day for school or who miss few days? The answer is NO!

Please understand we can take the students that have a chronic illness out of the discussion, but even they have home schooling or tutoring.  I don’t understand how students can be absent for six weeks outside of a health issue. Regular school attendance is very important for student’s academic success.

Are they pushing them out the door to make their graduation ratings look good? I don’t understand how students could be absent that many days and be prepared for the future.  A student who graduates under this emergency law will possibly get a job, but when they don’t show up to work on a regular basis and get disciplined and or fired, they will not understand because they was allowed to do it growing up in school.

Luckily, this measure won’t be official unless Mayor Muriel Bowser signs it into law. Mayor Bowser, if you care about our kids, your signature won’t be found on this measure.

 

Ordinary Activists

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By Jada Drew

Communities around the world need activism because it is an integral part of the ecosystem. Without activism, democracies do not exist, systems are not challenged, and the moral consciousness of communities die.

The New Oxford dictionary defines activism as “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s more than one way to be an activist and activism is important for the longevity of societies.

People have said to me before that I’m a great activist. I disagreed because my understanding of an activist did not align with me. I viewed activist as those brave people who were out in the streets protesting, becoming political prisoners, or arrested because of civil unrest. I’m not big on being in the spotlight and I’m really not the protest type. I’m a systems changer and systems creator.

After all, most of the well-known activists in the world like Angela Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Assata Shakur, Caesar Chavez, Malcolm X, Dolores Huerta, Bussa, Sitting Bull, and Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed much or all of their lives to catalyze or continue national and international movements.

It’s the everyday activism that keeps that moral compass of our nation steady. From teachers including justice history into curriculum to political advocates on capitol hill, it’s is necessary to disrupt the society when policy and practices create inequality for people.

It’s the everyday citizen who makes an intentional decision to alert millions of people when there are acts of injustice. It’s people like Jamarl Clark of the We Inspire Movement, who involves hundreds of people each year on June 2nd to perform an act of inspiration and to contribute to the movement yearly.

I realized that art is a huge catalyst for activism too. Christopher Everett raises awareness through his vivid storytelling through film with the award winning documentary Wilmington On Fire detailing the organized governmental destruction of a prominent Black business district in Wilmington, NC. Now thousands of people are hosting viewings and seeking ways to reconcile the brutal genocide.

Activism challenges our current narratives of how we view and experience the world. To keep it real, there are those of us who don’t want to see things differently sometimes, including myself. And there are those of us who are constantly finding ways to help our diverse communities see what may blind us. I’m grateful for being surrounding by people who help me see past my perspectives. It helps me to use my awareness and pair with innovative and creative ways to create more inclusive and equitable organizations and communities.

 

Parents Value Safety. But Do Education Journalists? That Depends

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This article was first published on goodschoolhunting.org

By Erika Sanzi

Education writers and journalists seem to jump at the chance to write about school safety and scared parents when the story is school shootings and student activism around gun control but so many fail to demonstrate that same passion for safety when parents cite school vouchers or the larger concept of school choice as the antidote to their fears. 

This appears to be the case with the coverage of a new report released by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education by Arianna Prothero at EdWeek, Perry Stein at the Washington Post, and Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat. The report looked at the impacts of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program on students two years after they applied. All the headlines and story ledes predictably focus on the lower math scores and only make brief mention of the findings around safety. Something else of note is that although the actual name of the program is the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, Barnum of Chalkbeat does not refer to it by that name even once in his piece. He refers to it more generally as a “private school voucher program.” 

The Associated Press version of the story only mentions math scores and completely ignores the safety findings. According to Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC’s non-voting delegate to Congress and a known opponent of vouchers, the study shows the Opportunity Scholarship Program is “ineffective.”  

“If Congress is interested in putting money in schools, it should be putting that money where the results show the money should be.” – Eleanor Holmes Norton

Either safety be damned for Norton or she has only seen the headlines and heard the sound bites about math scores. 

In an honest and more sane world, there would be greater focus—and celebration—of a study that shows a 19.5 percentage point difference in parents’ perception of their child’s school being “very safe.” According to the report, 74.2 percent of parents of scholarship users rated their child’s school as “very safe” compared with 54.7 of parents of students who applied for, but were not awarded, a scholarship. 

The math scores are ten points lower. The safety perception numbers are 20 points higher. Both data points matter. 

Education writers know that parents prioritize school safety over standardized scores. They also know that low income parents are far more likely to believe that their assigned or zoned school is not safe enough. But somehow this isn’t the most important finding in the study at a time when school safety stories related to guns are published daily. 

Instead, math scores rule the day. 

One has to wonder if the fact that, by and large, most education writers have never experienced a dangerous school first hand—as a student or as a parent—contributes to their tendency to dismiss or minimize the significance of the increased feeling of safety parents and students report in the DC scholarship program. Or maybe it’s their politics. Either way, it’s a problem. 

If the fundamental belief in the right to feel safe at school is truly the driver of the activism out of Parkland, the former Secretary of Education’s call for a school boycott, and the Democrats’ universal call for better and stronger gun legislation, why aren’t these same folks celebrating a program that actually allows parents and students to feel safer?

Progressives and high profile anti-reform folks are most known for the mantra that children are “more than a score” and that we must focus on the “whole child.” Well, that seems to be exactly what is happening for DC scholarship recipients and yet, somehow, vouchers remain the enemy in most progressive and Democratic party circles. And in the spirit of total cognitive dissonance, some of the folks who have spent countless hours dismissing the value of tests suddenly want to use them to say “I told you so” about a school choice program that exclusively serves low income children in Washington, DC.

But if scores are suddenly the end all be all for school choice critics, surely the recent study of the Opportunity Scholarship Program in North Carolina and its participants’ higher test scores will have them supporting vouchers in no time. Oh wait. 

The truth is, children do deserve to feel—and be—safe in school and their parents deserve to feel confident that they are. It’s a fundamental expectation worthy of bipartisanship that should be free from partisan orthodoxy. Gun legislation may be what gets some parents there and opportunity scholarships (yes, vouchers!) may get others there. We owe it to parents to be open to both. 

 

D.C. passes emergency law to allow chronically absent students to graduate

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This article was first posted on www.washingtonpost.com

High school seniors who missed more than six weeks of class would still receive their diplomas under an emergency measure approved by the D.C. Council, even as the city remains mired in a graduation scandal.

The measure, which passed Tuesday on a 12-to-1 vote, would apply only to students who meet all other academic standards.

Council members David Grosso (I-At Large) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), who ­co-introduced the legislation, said the school system started enforcing long-ignored attendance policies in the middle of the year, amid the graduation imbroglio. They said it is unfair that students have to pay the price for the city’s mistake.

The vote sets up a potential showdown between the council and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), whose signature is necessary for the reprieve to go into effect. Bowser’s administration has said it opposes the measure, and council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), a Bowser ally, cast the lone vote against it.

When asked whether the mayor would sign the measure, her office said she is reviewing her options and referred to an emailed comment from the city’s deputy mayor for education that sharply criticized the legislation. ­Bowser, who is seeking reelection this year, has not vetoed a bill since taking office in January 2015.

A spokesman for D.C. Public Schools, whose chancellor is appointed by the mayor, said school leaders are also against the legislation. 

[Teachers at a D.C. school say seniors’ absences were erased, prompting investigation.]

The council passed the reprieve on an emergency basis, meaning it will be implemented on an expedited timeline and does not require congressional review, unlike standard D.C. measures.

“This emergency legislation undermines [the school system’s] efforts and sends a troubling message about the importance of school attendance, suggesting that students need a waiver to excuse absences,” Ahnna Smith, the interim deputy mayor for education, said in a statement. “We will continue to stress the importance of attendance because every day counts.”

City policy dictates that students who have 30 or more absences in a class should fail, and the proposed legislation would delay stringent enforcement of the attendance policy until the 2018-2019 academic year.

“There are students who were operating under attendance policies articulated to them by their schools,” White said. “They should not be the scapegoat for a misstep” by D.C. Public Schools.

Several council members expressed misgivings about the legislation Tuesday before voting for it. 

[Too many absences? It might not be a problem for D.C. students after all.]

“The optics in which you have the council stepping in and saying, ‘Well, kids can miss 30 days and it’s okay,’ ” council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said. “And it’s kind of, as I said, no good decision either way.”

Data released last month shows that 64 of the school system’s 3,623 seniors could receive a break because of the legislation. Those students are at risk of not graduating for one reason: They have too many absences.

But White said the school system has updated its figures, and it’s now believed 26 seniors would be affected by the legislation. It is unclear why that number changed, but White suggested that schools may have discovered some students in danger of not graduating had failed to meet other academic standards.

A D.C. schools spokesman said the number of students the legislation will affect is not final.

The measure would also apply to students in lower grades who are at risk of not advancing to the next grade because of absences, according to Grosso’s statement.

The Class of 2017 posted a 73 percent graduation rate — a record high for the city.

Data released by D.C. Public Schools last month indicates that 46 percent of seniors are on course to cross the graduation stage. Twenty-one percent, or 758 students, are considered moderately off track.

Earlier this month, teachers at Roosevelt High in Petworth told The Washington Post that students’ attendance records had been altered in recent months to erase absences — a breach that could have allowed chronically absent seniors to graduate.

The school system said an investigation into those allegations continues.