Chronic Absenteeism, Truancy Plagues NYC High Schools

Chronic student absenteeism is plaguing several of New York City's high schools, according to the Rachel Monahan of the New York Daily News. Sixty-one high schools around the city report absenteeism rates so high that on average, each student is missing one school day per week for the entire academic year.

One of the very worst offenders is the Performance Conservatory High School located in the West Farms neighborhood in the Bronx. Of the 260 students enrolled in the school, a full 37% were absent on any given day. A stunning 75% of students were absent for a month or more last year.

Although no other school is as bad as PCHS, absenteeism continues to be a problem across the entire district. Only 87% of students show up for class on an average day in New York City. Kim Nauer, project director at the New School's Center for New York City Affairs, said that truancy is an issue that affects all grades in New York's public schools.

Her center's analysis found that one-third of all high school students in the city are considered chronically absent, meaning they miss at least 20 days a year.

It's a serious problem, Nauer said. "If you want to improve the outcomes of kids and get them enough experience to go to college, you have to get them to school."

Thirteen of the schools that found themselves on the worst-25 list for attendance last year are slated to be shut down for underperformance — and included among them is Performance Conservatory.

In light of the bad attendance numbers, the fact that students at PCHS are failing in high numbers doesn't come as much of a surprise. According to one PCHS student, Jonathan Garcia, who estimates that he missed about 20 days of school so far this year, many students feel that the dismal quality of instruction makes attending classes is pointless.

His school was founded as a Bronx version of the world-famous LaGuardia performing arts school, but the drama and music programs have both been cut. "I picked the school because I wanted to go for music, but a year later they took it out," Garcia said.

The rotten attendance figures for Performance Conservatory may not even reveal the extent of the problem.

Garcia says that he has attempted to transfer out a number of times, but the district wouldn't allow it.

According to the Daily News, teachers unions are blaming truancy problems on budget cuts that forced schools to reduce the number of teachers assigned to track down chronically absent students. In total, there are now 10% fewer staff members in charge of returning absent students back to class.

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