Governor Takes a Bow for Students Logging On. Data Doesn’t Back It Up.

Last spring, that datapoint of how many students didn’t log on at all was almost identical: 4%. There’s no way to gauge if more students are attending more often than in the spring, because the state isn’t asking for the weekly surveys that are publicly released.

State department officials said they didn’t ask for more details because they didn’t want to burden districts with additional reporting requirements as they work to setup a more robust system to track monthly attendance. Such tracking is critical, civil rights advocates say, because a disproportionate share of students attending class entirely online go to school in districts where large shares of students fall behind academically. In the state’s 10 most chronically struggling districts, 58% of the students are learning entirely online, compared to 25% in all the other districts, state data shows.

“One of the most important measurements to look at is chronic absenteeism, because it’s so related to student engagement, student success and penetration into the juvenile justice system,” said Martha Stone, executive director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy, which helps children from low-income families overcome barriers to be successful in school. “When you already had issues of chronic absenteeism in these major districts, and then you overlay the COVID problems and connectivity problems, it’s really important to get accurate measures not only for chronic absenteeism, but for student achievement, because they will both be affected. It’s really important to measure it consistently and accurately.”

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