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"Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere:
The pandemic changed families’ lives and the culture of education: “Our relationship with school became optional'."

I've excerpted liberally, but click on the link and read the whole piece. I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, taking control back from an externally imposed schedule that doesn't take your child's health, mental state, or family commitments into account seems that it could be helpful. On the other hand, as someone who taught in a classroom for twenty years, I understand how difficult it is to keep a carefully-designed, coherent program running when students simply don't show up on a random basis.


Nationally, an estimated 26 percent of public school students were considered chronically absent last school year, up from 15 percent before the pandemic, according to the most recent data, from 40 states and Washington, D.C., compiled by the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. Chronic absence is typically defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days, for any reason....

The trends suggest that something fundamental has shifted in American childhood and the culture of school, in ways that may be long lasting. What was once a deeply ingrained habit — wake up, catch the bus, report to class — is now something far more tenuous.

“Our relationship with school became optional,” said Katie Rosanbalm, a psychologist and associate research professor with the Center of Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

The habit of daily attendance — and many families’ trust — was severed when schools shuttered in spring 2020. Even after schools reopened, things hardly snapped back to normal. Districts offered remote options, required Covid-19 quarantines and relaxed policies around attendance and grading...

In many ways, the challenge facing schools is one felt more broadly in American society: Have the cultural shifts from the pandemic become permanent?

In the work force, U.S. employees are still working from home at a rate that has remained largely unchanged since late 2022. Companies have managed to “put the genie back in the bottle” to some extent by requiring a return to office a few days a week, said Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University who studies remote work. But hybrid office culture, he said, appears here to stay.

Some wonder whether it is time for schools to be more pragmatic.

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2 days ago

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This is the sentence that infuriated me: “Students can’t learn if they aren’t in school.”

I know my kid enrolled in public high school has had a number of illnesses. Covid has made us more mindful of the need to stay home when ill with what we might have considered minor things in the before times, when she might have soldiered off to school with a minor bug that is still contagious and might not be minor for someone else. I also do think that our one Covid infection damaged her immune system, as she has been sick more often than she was before covid. And that isn’t even someone suffering from long covid.

Covid and other viruses are still circulating..I know it set my own high schooler back a week each time. But grades are fine..remote learning has changed all that

Personally I think it is great that many families aren’t as readily allowing schools to dictate attendance. Parents should be the final authority on whether a student is well enough to attend on any given day, etc. The system itself needs an overhaul to focus less on specific attendance numbers and more on individual growth and achievement benchmarks. In Missouri, where I currently live, about 30% of the districts now have 4 day school weeks. At least one of the online public school options (available to anyone in the state) doesn’t count attendance according to a daily contact, but instead by progress made in the coursework. A system which attempts to enforce and advocate for a specific number of days with pants in seats just doesn’t ring true when these alternative systems which don’t require the same produce similar results.

Families are being led to question what value their children are missing, by missing school. It’s a fair question.

Attendance due to illness isn't the problem. Devaluing education is the problem. If student's parents buy into the "I know better than the experts," then there is no reason to become educated. The culture cannot denigrate education then expect students or parents to value it. And if it isn't valued, why go?

It’s all tied to money. Years ago we lived temporarily in Texas. My children were in kindergarten and first grade. My 5 year old had a few days where she wanted to stay home. New house, new school - she was trying to adjust. They missed a few days of school when we traveled back to Virginia for the holidays. Eventually I got a letter from the principal that threatened us with court and fines if she missed any more days of school. She was not behind academically.(seriously, kindergarten!) The school secretary gave me advice on how to handle it. “Just withdraw her from school when you need to travel, and re-enroll her when you return.” But they also could not guarantee that she would be placed back into the same classroom. I realized that the principal didn’t really care about my daughter. Only funding.

I would add one more layer: schools have increased the number of holidays on the calendar (with many school districts adding days off for major holidays celebrated amongst increasing immigrant and ethnic groups) and the number of teacher work days continues to explode. In light of that, the school districts sent the first signal that it's ok to devalue the school calendar. And inadvertently but more pressure on attendance.

One is reminded, at least in my Seattle experience, of the oft declared during those years oath: We will not go back to normal! And we haven’t. I see no problem with this, and take heart at the real possibility of radical change in how children will be educated henceforth.

The march toward year-round school with a longer calendar probably doesn’t help. Parents working shift work doesn’t help—that is one reason we homeschooled for several years; our son had to skip school to see his dad! People took vacations during off season when I was in school also, and no one really complained. It was understood that the students would make up the work, and it happened. No big deal.

The thing is, those government school truants are still being paid for by John Q. Taxpayer as long as they are on the rolls. Teachers, other staff, supplies, equipment, and even food must be provided in case they decide to show up. Also, teachers continually needing to rewind the instruction for the benefit of the lazy hurts the good students. If these children can’t show up and earn their participation points and pass the tests, flunk them. Obviously occasionally there are legitimate serious reasons, but the fraction has gone so high now that it’s far more than that. So… offer no extra credit, nor make up points, nor age-based social promotion. Fail them. They’ll need to wise up and produce or they’ll be out of the system by age 16 and it will be better for everyone. Once there is a culture that tolerates lackadaisical attendance, no one values it and it only gets worse as the attitude spreads to others. I’m all for homeschooling, private schools, and every sort of School Choice out there. But, if your kids are enrolled in government schools, they need to reliably be there. They are on someone else’s dime and their absences impact the other students.

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The second season just started! We're all about the nuts and bolts of education in these episodes, starting out with recommendations for the littlest learners.
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4 days ago

The second season just started! Were all about the nuts and bolts of education in these episodes, starting out with recommendations for the littlest learners.

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I've been checking weekly since the last episode 😆

Excellent news!


Curious as to what both parents and classroom teachers think of this article. "‘You Can Hear a Pin Drop’: The Rise of Super Strict Schools in England. Inspired by the academic success of schools like the Michaela secondary school in northwest London, some principals are introducing tight controls on students’ behavior."

In a growing number of schools, days are marked by strict routines and detentions for minor infractions, like forgetting a pencil case or having an untidy uniform. Corridors are silent as students are forbidden to speak with their peers.

Advocates of no-excuses policies in schools, including Michael Gove, an influential secretary of state who previously served as education minister, argue that progressive, child-centered approaches that spread in the 1970s caused a behavioral crisis, reduced learning and hindered social mobility...

Since Rowland Speller became the principal of the Abbey School in the south of England, he has cracked down on misbehavior and introduced formulaic routines inspired by Michaela’s methods. He said that a regulated environment is reassuring for students who have a volatile home life.

If one student does well, the others clap twice after a teacher says, “Two claps on the count of two: one, two.”

“We can celebrate lots of children really quickly,” Mr. Speller said.

Mouhssin Ismail, another school leader who founded a high-performing school in a disadvantaged area of London, posted a picture on social media in November of school corridors with students walking in lines. “You can hear a pin drop during a school’s silent line ups,” he wrote...

At her school, many students expressed gratitude when asked about their experiences, even praising the detentions they received, and eagerly repeating the school’s mantras about self-improvement. The school’s motto is “work hard, be kind.”

Leon, 13, said that initially he did not want to go to the school, “but now I am thankful I went because otherwise I wouldn’t be as smart as I am now.”

...But some educators have expressed concern about the broader zero-tolerance approach, saying that controlling students’ behavior so minutely might produce excellent academic results, but does not foster autonomy or critical thinking. Draconian punishments for minor infractions can also come at a psychological cost, they say.

“It’s like they’ve taken 1984 and read it as a how-to manual as opposed to a satire,” said Phil Beadle, an award-winning British secondary school teacher and author.

To him, free time and discussion are as important to child development as good academic results. He worries that a “cultlike environment that required total compliance” can deprive children of their childhood...

In the United States, charter schools that adopted similar strict approaches were initially praised for their results. But growing criticism from some parents, teachers and students in the mid-2010s triggered a reckoning in the sector.

In 2020, Uncommon Schools, an American network of charter schools and one of the pioneers of the “no excuses” approach, announced it was abandoning some of its strictest policies, including “Slant.” The organization said it would remove “undue focus on things like eye contact and seat posture” and put greater emphasis on building student confidence and intellectual engagement.

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1 week ago

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Something has to happen. In my community the divide is wide open, with the majority of students living in poverty being raised by a relative, most likely a grandparent, and the students who come from 2 parent households & get to eat 3 meals a day in a clean environment. The majority is so dis regulated, that teachers spend 9/10 of their day dealing with emotional problems rather than teaching. I don’t think this is the universal solution.

“Under a policy called “Slant” (Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head and Track the speaker), the students, aged 11 and 12, were barred from looking away.” What a nightmare scenario for neurodivergent students.

I'm a lover of order and many kids thrive with it. But this extreme and a hellscape for neurodivergent students. Moderation in all things.

My son went to a classical “Christian” school that operated like this. He was there K-2. Biggest parenting mistake we made. It killed his spirit and his love of learning. It’s horrible that this is becoming popular. It’s evidence that authoritarianism is becoming normalized.

As a teacher not gonna lie, there are days I wish you could hear a pin drop in my classroom, but overall, I question what actual learning is taking place. If all their mental energy is directed toward modifying their behavior what's left for absorbing information, nevermind actual learning. We don't ask this of adults, why would we demand it of children?

My thoughts. Great way to raise an army. Just do as you're told, when you are told, the way you are told. If you are going to teach in a classroom setting, respect for fellow classmates should be expected and required. Pin drop silence? How on earth will they function when they hit an office, manufacturing or construction setting. Having to navigate a multi generational work setting, which is a major hurdle for many classroom graduates, and discovering that the world doesn't become quiet so you can work?! School should be a safe space. The described setting would have me worried about things other than my academics.

I home schooled for 21 years and have taught sophomore English in a mid size urban school for five years. I run a tight ship in my classroom and can tell you doing so makes all the differing the world. I have neurodivergent students and behavior students, all of whom do better with structure and boundaries. Some of my fellow teachers are far more lenient and have far more problems bc they don’t have rules and don’t require respect. Also please stop insulting public education. It’s unhelpful. Not everyone can or even should home school and believe it or not, society benefits when students learn to read, write, and think. Those of us in the trenches need support, not insults

My daughter went to a school where it was a "tale of two teachers". One was very lenient with classroom management and didn't mind if students talked at random times. He quit and was replaced by a strict disciplinarian teacher. While my daughter did not have as much "fun", her grades improved, her stress calmed down, and she was able to do homework during class time because the teacher didn't need to constantly discipline students for talking during her lesson.

I read this article when it first came out and I think one of the key points is that this type of charter school was designed for high risk, low income youth in inner cities. In the article, the head of school explained the benefits of a tightly structured academic setting for kids who lack structure at home. That being said—I taught at a diverse high school and believe in a tightly run classroom, but I think enforcing SLANT would be counterproductive. There is a happy medium.

It’s the easiest way to teach the largest amount of students to regurgitate facts in the shortest amount of time, preparing them for nothing.

An extreme response to an extreme situation. Where to find an Aristotelian mean? I know neither I nor my children (at least one of whom has ASD & ADHD) would benefit from such an environment. Harder does not equal better, and brittleness is not a sign of strength.

I feel anxious just reading about this! I do get the appeal: historically, top achieving schools/systems have operated this way. They do have a track record for learning and achievement, but not so much for producing healthy, well-balanced people. There's absolutely no emotional or relational development in such situations. It seems like that would cause further harm rather than help to children from unhealthy home situations.

“To him, free time and discussion are as important to child development as good academic results.” I don’t think that the proponents of the stricter school policies would disagree! It’s about protecting free time from those who would make it self serving instead of something that is enriching to all members of the community. It’s about protecting the classroom as a place for meaningful discussion.

I do think that, in the western world at least, adults have abdicated their authority due to misguided ideas about how to foster creativity and self actualization in children. But these two things must always be grounded in the reality of the world. Critical thinking, which was mentioned in the article, is a form of creativity that, in order to be truly critical and not just emotion-laden drivel, must be firmly grounded in facts and reason. It is not a free for all; indeed, it is the polar opposite. With regard to self actualization, something similar is at work. If your attempts to grow into your "true" self are embedded in a worldview that is at odds with reality, you will be doomed to frustration or worse. Self actualization that is successful looks like a dance between the self and the wider world, with full understanding that the further one strays from the norms of the dance, the more the dance will become a struggle. Yes, the world and its approach to the dance changes over time, but real change comes from the ground up, can be slow in arriving, and cannot be dictated by individual whims. So, this is a long way of saying that rules are important for children, though the schools in question might be going overboard.

My kids have gone to a fairly strict charter school for about 7 years now. At the beginning, it was too strict. Some students were having to leave the school because of anxiety and depression. I think the admin has done better at finding their way. Being too strict is not practical and it's just mean. Some of the overly strict folks are gone. However, in general, the uniform codes are healthy, there is a ban on cell phones, and the teachers are trained (especially in the younger grades) to expect the students to meet rules. It really does help the goal of learning. And, most importantly, the admin actually backs up their teachers when they have a disruptive problem in the claasroom.

As a homeschooler, I question why it has to be either extreme. As a mentor in a 4-12 th grade robotics club, we can maintain a certain level of behavior without becoming draconian. Have high expectations and commit to appropriate behavior balanced with compassion and grace. Why the need to either extreme?

Militaristic people who encourage, implement, admire ideas like this should be nowhere near education—or other human beings, actually. I think the biggest problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of “education” & more importantly of what it is to be human.

Pendulum swiiiiiiing. 🕰️ The impetus is not wrong — but why can’t we react proactively and not so reactively?

And so the pendulum swings… <sigh>

I read this blog post earlier today, and it seems to provide a counterpoint to the article: I tend to agree with the blogger, that so much of the issue comes down to permissive, screen-driven, or lacking parenting. The school with rules sounds better than the behaviors I witness from my son’s classmates.

Kids pay a price as the "adults in the room" go from one extreme to the other. Personally, I would have preferred one of the "strict school." It would have relieved some of the anxiety, perhaps even bullying I saw all around me. But I'm 57 years old, perhaps I'm too old to compare ; )

My Kids are exhausted after school bc of and the noise and movement And it's not bc students are out of control or lack Of classroom management It's just a lot of bodies in rooms 😞

Definitely an option for certain kids who need it and could flourish under that structure. More options should be available to parents and students, including this.

When classes have tii many kids This is what you get

There’s no one size fits all Education,I have been to many schools and places.When the kids are ready they are ready to learn.We quickly forget that you can’t measure an IQ,children have different strengths and weaknesses. Working more on their strengths rather than pushing them so hard. Have you even watched the Documentary about the Korean Kids that many of them kill themselves?

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