The Chronic Absenteeism Crisis Is More Complicated Than We Think

A teacher’s perspective on the attendance crisis from the frontlines

Ryan Fan
Age of Awareness

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Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Two years ago, an electrician came to my apartment to fix a light in my house. We chatted and I told him I was a special education teacher, in one of our local city schools. He had actually gone to high school at a school that wasn’t too far from the one I was teaching at. It was one of the biggest high schools in the city with very similar demographics to mine — a high poverty, predominantly Black and Hispanic school. When he talked about the high school, he laughed.

“It was a fucking joke,” he said. “I missed 100 days my senior year and still graduated.”

I laughed, too. For the record, we have 180 school days during the school year, so this means this electrician had an attendance rate of around 47% during his senior year and still got by. He obviously wasn’t saying this like it was a good thing. He wasn’t saying the teachers were so nice and accommodated him amidst hardships in his life. He was implying that the standards were really low and he got by with the bare minimum, and that bare minimum was coming to school less than half the time.

Obviously, he was getting by just fine as an electrician, but I have been thinking about this comment…

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Ryan Fan
Age of Awareness

Believer, Baltimore City IEP Chair, and 2:39 marathon runner. Diehard fan of “The Wire.” Support me by becoming a Medium member: https://bit.ly/39Cybb8