Truancy is a huge problem in the District. Truancy rates remain high and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson is addressing the problem head on. As a matter of fact, at a D.C. Council hearing on Thursday, November 8, Henderson asked the council to keep holding the school system's feet to the fire on the issue of truancy in order to keep the issue on the top of the system's list of priorities.
Tracking student attendance, holding parents accountable, picking up truant students and regulations that allow children to be removed from their homes for educational neglect are ways in which several District agencies are engaged in reducing truancy, including the Metropolitan Police Department [MPD], Child and Family Services Administration [CFSA], along with the District's school system. These measures rank among the most effective thus far and have resulted in a slight dip in the number of days D.C. students are truant.
But the numbers are still not low enough and they don't indicate that a resolution to the problem is coming quickly enough, especially at Ballou and Anacostia Senior High Schools in Southeast, Spingarn in Northeast and Roosevelt in Northwest where absenteeism is the highest. Reports also show that high truancy rates mirror the low graduation rates at each of these schools. Furthermore, Henderson points out that repeated unexcused absences in elementary school often leads to a high truancy rate in high school.
Henderson described this as a "crisis" and acknowledged that students who are truant often roam neighborhoods without being questioned by law enforcement, or end up engaged in criminal activity. What kind of message are we, as a community, giving when we allow children to skip school right before our eyes?
We applaud the D.C. Council, along with Chancellor Henderson and others for every effort being made to keep students in school. But, we also recognize that there are students, who have challenges that impact their ability to complete a traditional school day schedule, and thus the District of Columbia Public Schools has established alternative programs to help older or adult students receive their GED or high school diploma.
To achieve the desired results of improved student attendance and increased graduation rates will take a collaborative effort by every segment of the community.