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Child development research shows that children need routine and stability. This starts in the home, and extends to the classroom, where children spend a large amount of their time growing up. Unfortunately, Michigan students are missing school at alarming rates. According to a University of Michigan analysis, close to one out of every six children enrolled in public and charter schools were chronically absent in the 2016-17 school year across the state, meaning they missed 10 percent or more days of class. All regions in Michigan had districts with chronic absenteeism rates of 25 percent or more. Meanwhile in Detroit Public School Community District specifically, 70 percent of students were chronically absent in the 2017-18 school year, according to state data. Nationally, there are about 16 percent of students who are chronically absent.
In addition, a recent survey from Bridge Magazine, ChalkBeat and Outlier Media found that 1 in 4 students in Detroit change schools every year. Many of these students make moves during a single school year. New data analysis from Wayne State College of Education has found nearly 60 percent of students were enrolled in two or more schools during a recent school year, many jumping from one school to another, and sometimes back again.
And not only are students chronically absent and frequently moving schools, but masses of Detroit students are leaving the city to go to school. 26,000 Detroit students attended a public school in the suburbs in 2017-18, and most had previously attended school in Detroit. Students were more likely to have attended school outside the city when they had fewer city schools near where they lived, raising important issues about school locations, closures, and access. The effects of inconsistency and instability in a child’s education can have serious ramifications for a child’s ability to succeed in their education. Mobile and absent students who don’t have the opportunity to form enduring connections are likely to experience lower achievement levels and are at high-risk for dropping out. And for teachers, it’s both challenging and heartbreaking to educate students who are frequently absent or leave without a trace.
The problems of student exit, mobility, and absenteeism are present in many school districts throughout the United States, particularly large urban districts. This discussion will center on the barriers that exist for students in attending school, how schools and communities are working together to ensure students get to school and are able to learn, and innovative solutions for creating stability for Michigan’s students.
This discussion will be featured in the “NBC News Learn Presents: Education Now” live event in metro Detroit, MI on October 24. The full event will be livestreamed here -- stay tuned for updates.