More than half of our students were rarely absent at 50.7%.
That’s Rochanda Jackson, executive director of Newark schools’ Office of Policy, Planning, Evaluation and Testing, doing some serious data spin as the largest district in the state released chronic absenteeism rates which showed, for instance, that 53% of students at Barringer High School, 52% of students at West Side High School, and 43% of students at Newark Vocational High School were chronically absent.
New Jersey defines chronic absenteeism as being absent for 10% or more of the days enrolled during the school year.
Today Tapinto Newark, in an article entitled “Newark Public Schools’ History of Chronic Absenteeism Appears to be Making a Widespread Comeback,” recounts,
Superintendent [Roger] Leon has previously said he would seek to fix the absenteeism problem in Newark. In September of 2018, months after becoming superintendent, Leon announced a plan to achieve perfect attendance in every school. In February of 2019, he announced that he would hire back attendance workers that previous administrations cut amid questions about their effectiveness.
Then Covid hit and Newark district schools were closed for 13 months. During that time of remote instruction, Leon informed the State Department of Education that 99.8% of students were present every day. From Chalkbeat: “I can guarantee you attendance was nowhere near 100% last spring,” said a teacher at a magnet school who, like the other educators interviewed for this story, requested anonymity to avoid retaliation by the district. “There’s absolutely no way that’s possible.”
So there’s that: Newark isn’t hiding the data. Then again, during Covid school disruptions the NJ Department of Education issued loosey-goosey guidance on recording absences.
“Chronic absenteeism is a major threat to education recovery in the city of Newark and across our state,” said Paula White, executive director of JerseyCAN, an organization whose mission is to support policies that improve schools. “Teachers can’t teach children who are not in their classrooms,” White said. “They need instructors giving them feedback in real time as they are reading, writing or tackling a problem in math and for this to happen, they must be in the classroom. They also need the emotional and social benefits from the relationship they have with their teachers.”
More than a quarter of Newark students attending @NPSvoices schools were chronically or severely chronically absent in September, a bellwether month for a public school that has long grappled with chronic absenteeism. Read more: https://t.co/Wvvx3lu1er. pic.twitter.com/ErJDO9TRV0
— TAPinto Newark (@TAPintoNewark) November 22, 2022