top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

As absenteeism soars, schools want money for no-show students

Funding schools based on enrollment rather than attendance would be "more equitable," a superintendent told Rick Hess as they waited to go on stage for an event, he writes on Education Next. Chronic absenteeism has doubled, the superintendent said. A third of students miss 40+ days of school.


"You want schools where students show up to get less funding so schools with empty seats can get more?," Hess replied. "How on earth is that equitable?”


Schools don't control whether students come, the superintendent said. "Our students have to work and watch their siblings . . . Just surviving each day is an accomplishment.”


“Some kids face more challenges than others," Hess said. "But I don’t buy that schools are helpless. They can ensure they’re worth attending and have staff talk to families or knock on doors.”


“That’s a very simplistic, very privileged view of the situation,” the superintendent said. "We can’t stomp around giving orders and casting blame. We can’t just tell school staff, ‘Go knock on doors.’ It needs to be a co-created partnership that centers on equity and inclusion.”


That last sentence is a direct quote, writes Hess. And it's not satire.

“You’re saying that a school where only a handful of students show up should get funded as if everyone was there — with a little extra on top — because there’s nothing the school can do?”

The superintendent sighed. Hess was called on stage.


The “soft bigotry of low expectations” used to be considered a bad thing, he writes. "No, under the sway of a truly perverse notion of 'equity,' sophisticates have refashioned low expectations as a sign of compassion and moral superiority."


Years ago, I heard San Jose teachers talking about Pobrecito Syndrome. "Poor baby," he can't be expected to learn like other children -- or even to show up.


The phrase may have been coined by Pedro Noguera, now dean of USC's education school, wrote Esther J. Cepeda in a 2013 Washington Post column. "I use the term 'pobrecito syndrome' to describe those who lower expectations as a form of sympathy for disadvantaged students," Noguera told her via email. "But our students need empathy, not pity, and they need to be challenged."

262 views13 comments

Recent Posts

See All

13 Comments


Craig Randall
Craig Randall
Mar 26

I'm seeing a lot of great back-and-forth on this issue. One of the common themes here is how we manage choice/accountability as a function of attendance and education.


Until schools are able to enforce consequences, we won't see much change. I've been out of the classroom a few years now, but one of the greatest struggles I had was that of adding teeth to my policies.


The day I had an administrator apologize to me privately for having to tell me publicly that "I couldn't enforce that" in a classroom was the day I realized that my dreams of creating accountability and the sense of ownership that it brings with it were just that: Dreams.

Like

m_t_anderson
Mar 22

The potential for enrollment fraud should be obvious. It wouldn't take much to inflate the rolls, similar to the New Orleans PD pre-Katrina.

Like

Heresolong
Heresolong
Mar 22

Hard to disagree too much but I'll throw out a small tidbit. As a teacher I can't control whether or not they show up. I believe I have a classroom where kids want to be and I get routine positive feedback from many students and parents about how much their kids like my class. Not blowing my own horn, just setting the stage, and keeping in mind that it is a math class. But... I still have at least 10% absent on any given day because there are no consequences to taking a day off. It's mostly not the exact same students every day but there are definitely certain patterns. Predictable with about 75% accuracy as to who mi…


Like

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Mar 22

Bill's on the right track at the beginning of his comment below. Employees are laid off when there is insufficient demand for their services, and the education sector should be no different; otherwise there is no equity (that is, fairness) towards the taxpayers, who should not be expected to sweat to maintain their own employment while also being burdened to support a public (the superintendent's attitude evident in Joanne's quoted dialogue will not be found in the private school sector) education establishment unwilling to work equally hard to make sure their assigned customers (that is, the pupils subject to compulsory education) actually show up to receive their services.

Like
Bill Parker
Bill Parker
Mar 24
Replying to

We do NOT have compulsory education laws in the US, but rather compulsory ATTENDANCE laws, and the two things aren't anywhere close to each other.


In my senior year of high school, our district had implemented a mandatory

loss of credit earned once you reached your 19th absence (i.e. - more than

10% of the school year) and one young lady found out the hard way when

she didn't get to graduate with the rest of us, but was parked in summer

school making up the credit so she could be a member of the graduating

class.


The only reason why truancy laws aren't effective is like many other laws,

they aren't enforced, and since a lot of 16 year…


Like

Bill Parker
Bill Parker
Mar 21

IMO, a business wouldn't pay employees who didn't show up to work on a regular basis (not counting vacation, PTO, medical, LOA, etc) but they would simply be fired.


Why should taxpayers foot the bill for students who don't show up to class, if they don't want

to be there, let them drop out and don't AUTOMATICALLY re-enroll them for the next school

year.


pathetic

Like
rightactions
Mar 22
Replying to

Bill, what is it about the compulsory in compulsory education that you don't understand?


By the way, consider all the daytime mischief and home burglaries there'll be in your neighborhood when your local school district stops babysitting thousands of feral kids.

Like
bottom of page