Friday, January 22, 2021

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Students

I was pretty surprised to see a piece about how 2,000 students have not connected at all in NYC.  What surprised me most, though, was how low the number turned out to be. 

To be fair, one of those students happens to be mine. His parents were worried about the virus and sent him back to China. He never bothered to sign out, but was eventually dropped from the register. I have others who have come infrequently. 

I call and check on these kids and don't have a whole lot of success. One of the students who's stopped coming is very bright, and I really hate to see him go. But when I spoke to his dad most recently, he said, "He just doesn't want to do it." If I can't convince Dad, I'm certainly not going to convince the teenager. Online learning, like socially distanced learning, is not for everybody. It's better than literally risking your life with Covid, but that's not the best calling card.

I wonder, though, if we haven't got 2,000 students who never show up during an ordinary school year. When you consider there are 1.1 million schoolchildren in Fun City, that's an extremely low percentage. (No, I'm not doing the math, but have at it if you like.) Every year, we get "no-shows." When I grieve class sizes, the school looks for them and pulls them off of rosters. That's the easiest way to comply, I suppose. 

Here's a shocker for you:

While the missing students are a small fraction of the estimated 1.1 million students enrolled in New York City’s public schools, advocates say these are likely the most at-risk students who need support systems offered in school the most during the pandemic.

Well, of course students who don't show up need support systems. Of course they're at risk. If they aren't attending school, they're at risk of failing, at the very least. How is that different from non-attendance during a non-apocalypse? I'm not seeing it from that. 

There are substantive differences, though, as the piece points out:

“The stakes really couldn't be higher," said Michelle Yanche, the Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services, which is one of the city’s largest youth services providers. "I mean that you have the double impact of both the disconnection from education, and just what that is going to mean for the young person, in terms of losing precious ground during this time, but also just the isolation that comes with the pandemic, and all of the ways -- some extraordinarily scary -- of what that could mean for a young person."

I see that a lot more clearly. The isolation during this period is awful. I wonder a lot about what my student, the one whose father enables his chronic absence, is doing right now. Actually, knowing him as I do, I picture him playing video games 24/7. I could certainly be wrong though. He's very social, and if he hasn't got any chance to be social, he could be suffering. at

This could be a lot more serious for younger students developing basic skills, or failing to do so. What happens to a child who doesn't learn to read? It would surely be traumatic to be placed in a class full of readers when you haven't yet picked it up.

The city says they want everyone to attend, and I have no reason not to believe that. I'm hopeful that Biden will follow through with using emergency powers to ramp up vaccine production so this doesn't play out any longer than absolutely necessary. Fortunately, he appears poised to do just that. He wants to open school buildings within his first 100 days. We're going to need a whole lot of vaccines to pull that off. 

Still, I hope he does it. That would be an incredible achievement. If he doesn't pull it off, I think we're looking at September for a full return.

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