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Students enrolled in Newark Public Schools District are missing school at a “staggering” rate. According to the data from this past December, the district is recording a 34% absenteeism rate and at some schools 40% of students are “chronically” (missing two or three days a month) or “severely chronically” (missing more than three days a month) absent. The statewide average for chronic absenteeism is 13%.
What is Superintendent Roger Leon’s answer to a problem that, says Tapinto’s Frank Scandale, is “drawing concern from education experts and rebuke from the Newark Teachers Union”?
According to this district press release, NPS is partnering with the New Jersey Devils hockey team to increase attendance by 2% at four high schools. Select students will get hockey tickets and/or Amazon gift cards.
That’s right. Find the whitest sport in America—the NHL itself says 3% of its workforce is Black and 3% are Hispanic —and give yourself a pat on the back. There are so few Black professional hockey players that the NHL’s tribute for Black History Month includes no Black players. I’m guessing Leon hasn’t read the article called, “Only the Puck was Black: a Story of Race and the NHL.” ”
Here are some local reactions:
Attendance Works’ Hedy Chang, who was named by the White House as a Champion of Change for her commitment to furthering African-American Education, doesn’t see the connection. “‘Hockey tickets are nice, but they have no connection to school,’ she said. ‘Chronic absence makes me nervous. Forty percent is really high. I get concerned once you are over 15%…at 40 percent, it really is affecting a lot of what is going on in your school.'”
Tapinto reached out to Newark Teachers Union president John Abeigon to ask him if staff was involved in the initiative or asked for advice on addressing a critical problem:
He said there has been ‘zero’ information from the board of education regarding the absenteeism issue. Abeigon said teachers have not been asked for input and have not been asked to participate in seeking any kind of resolution. ‘And there have been no recovery attempts for these students. Nothing,’ he said. ‘They’ve known for months that this was going to be the result, that we were going to lose a certain part of the community to something other than a classroom.’
Tapinto also asked the district’s press person, Nancy Deering, for comment. She noted that the Board looks at attendance figures every month, adding, “your questions were answered, and the NJ Devils press release speaks for itself,.”
Board of Education President Dawn Haynes did not respond for a request for comment.
By the way, if you look at the chart at the top you’ll see the school with the highest chronic absenteeism rate is South 17th Street School, which serves students K-8. Therefore, those students aren’t eligible for hockey tickets and there is no plan to address this attendance crisis.
But go Devils!