D.C.’s New Emergency Attendance Policy: A Compassionate Plan or Just a Way to Get Kids Over?

“If your school or district has an unusually high rate, it’s time to start asking why. Are socioeconomic factors — poor health, unstable families, high pregnancy rates — to blame?
Are enforcement efforts lacking?
Are the schools perceived as unsafe — or just boring?
And if your school or district has an abnormally low rate, then it’s time to start asking a different set of questions.”
– Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center


The Washington Post‘s Perry Stein reports that the Washington D.C. Public School District has instituted a new, emergency attendance policy to cope with chronic absence by many students—a policy that will also allow some students to graduate this year even though they missed many days of school. The District’s creation of this emergency policy surfaces some serious issues about what it means to go to school, what it means to graduate, and how schools can work with masses of students experiencing the disruptions caused by deep poverty.

It’s an important debate to have, but a graduation crisis is probably not the right context for a thoughtful resolution.

You’ll remember that in Washington, D.C., under Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson, teachers’ and principals’ evaluations depended on educators’ capacity to produce metrics-driven deliverables—higher test scores at first, and later an ever-rising high school graduation rate. You’ll remember that…

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