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Opening Statement of Councilmember Grosso

Chairperson, Committee on Education
Committee on Education and Committee of the Whole
Joint Public Oversight Hearing on Improving School Attendance: Truancy,
Chronic Absenteeism, and the Implementation of Reform Initiatives
September 20, 2018

I want to thank both DCPS and PCSB for sending along both truancy and
absenteeism data ahead of this hearing.
September is Attendance Awareness month, so it is fitting that we are here to
learn more about the work of different agencies across the city as it relates to our
students’ attendance in school.
Last year, the Executive kicked off a campaign known as “Every Day Counts.” I
appreciate that the task force brings together educators, students, health
leaders, and those in the justice system with a common goal of looking at data.
I was, however, disappointed that the data update received at our last meeting
focused only on truancy data given that truancy only examines “unexcused
absences.” I would argue that if the Executive truly believes “every day counts,”
we must look at all absences to truly address root causes.
As I’ve talked to educators, they mention the countless time spent tracking down
excuses, filling out paperwork, and documenting steps taken to adhere to
truancy laws only to never know what happens once the information is sent to
Child and Family Services Agency or Court Social Services. I’m hoping
representatives from those agencies can speak to that in their testimony.
The students I have spoken with also have thoughts on this. They have lumped
their concerns into three major bucks - getting to school safely, the atmosphere
of the school–meaning do they feel welcomed–and the level of importance they
see in the lessons they receive in class, meaning do they feel the curriculum is
relevant and challenging. I hope to hear from the Deputy Mayor of Education and
our Education Sector leaders more about this today.

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I’ll close my opening with this: we know that children in poverty, children of color,
and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by us–policy leaders,
educators, adults– not getting this right.
These absences are caused by a number of barriers that can be addressed. In fact,
in some cases, it is being addressed across the country and in pockets of success
here in the city. We should look to these as models to be replicated and invested
I look forward to hearing from our agencies, particularly DCPS and our other
LEAs about adjustments they’ve made based on lessons learned from last year.


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