Is Chronic Absenteeism a Symptom of an Outdated School System?

Is Chronic Absenteeism a Symptom of an Outdated School System?

Since the pandemic, reports and articles in publications across the state and country have bemoaned the rise in chronic absenteeism (missing at least 10% of school days a year), says Roman Stearnsthe executive director of Scaling Student Success, a California partnership dedicated to leveraging the power and potential of a community-developed “graduate profile” or “learner portrait” as a driver for transformational change.

While theories and solutions abound from educational experts and practitioners, I think they mostly miss the point, Stearns writes in an opinion piece in Education Source.

I would argue that chronic absenteeism is merely a symptom of a larger problem that has been building for years, perhaps decades — that too many students don’t find school to be interesting, engaging or relevant for their futures. 

When schools and districts take the time to ask students, families, employers and community and civic leaders what young people need for future success, it results in a set of skills, competencies and mindsets — often captured in a “learner portrait” – that are vastly different from what the state currently holds schools accountable for. 

An analysis of dozens of these graduate profiles paints a clear picture: Young people need to communicate and collaborate effectively, think critically and creatively to solve problems, be self-directed lifelong learners and culturally competent and contributing citizens, be kind and compassionate, be technically and financially literate, maintain a healthy mind and body, and have a sense of purpose and sense of self. While often implicit, rarely are these skills, competencies and mindsets the explicit goals of our education system.

If and when we organize schools around these competencies, students would see greater value in attending school.

We need administrators to create the conditions that enable teachers to experiment. The state can help by shifting away from an outdated system of accountability that binds compliance-focused educational leaders to a status quo that we can all agree isn’t working.

Our education system could benefit from this approach. Instead of treating chronic absenteeism as the problem, let’s see it as one of many symptoms of an outdated education system.

Ed Source

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