Home > Uncategorized > In a World of Remote Learning, What Constitutes Truancy?

In a World of Remote Learning, What Constitutes Truancy?

September 22, 2020

NY Times writer Amy Goodnough’s article, “As Schools Go Remote, Finding Lost Students Gets Harder“, wrestles with the question posed in this title and fails to come up with a clear answer. Are the 22% of Detroit students who failed to log in this year “truants” or are they challenged to connect on line because they lack an internet connection? Or challenged because they don’t have a device that they can use? Or are they providing child care so their parents can go to work? Or are they working because their parents are incapable of working? Or are they missing because they realize they CAN miss and prefer staying home playing video games or playing with their friends? Or… and this is the hardest question to answer… are they avoiding school because for  the years they’ve attended school, they’ve gotten the message that they can’t learn and therefore it is pointless to even try to connect— especially if there are no adverse consequences?

I believe that the pandemic has shone a light on the reality that there are a core of disengaged students for whom school was difficult and pointless. A core of students who sensed that they had been sorted into the school system’s reject pile and found daily attendance painful. Just as there are some workers who know how many years and months until their retirement date, there are a group of middle school and high school students who know how many years until they reach the age where they no longer need to attend school… and the pandemic has offered these students an escape from the system that branded them as “failures” from the day they set foot in the door. Even if these students had computers and high speed internet the lure of avoiding an environment where their failures are emphasized would compel them to avoid logging on… especially if they can log into a world where their manual dexterity can enable them to conquer a virtual world.

Student engagement has been been a problem for generations… the pandemic is bringing that problem to light and the only way to solve it is to change the way we organize and assess students. The current rate of absenteeism is the result of the current model of sorting and selecting students based on their rate of learning as compared to an age cohort. Until schools look at each student based on their unique skills we should expect “truancy”… especially from those students who are avoiding school because they’ve heard and gotten the message that they can’t learn.

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