Two-thirds of students in Buffalo Public Schools have problems showing up to class every day. That is according to data released at a Buffalo School Board committee meeting Wednesday.
Absenteeism has long been a problem. Across the city school system, roughly one-third of students have satisfactory attendance - and that includes all the way from pre-school to 12th grade. The constant pitch is that if students do not show up, they will not learn.
"If you don't get that first grader to school and they're missing 36 days, they will have a bad life, plain and simple," said At-Large Board Member Larry Quinn. "You all saw the proficiency data - 17 percent of our kids are proficient. In the end, we make all the excuses for all this, but the data shows if the kids don't show up, they don't have a great future."
Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services Eric Rosser said the district is making progress in pulling together a structure to improve attendance.
"Our parent groups have committed to a system with increasing student attendance. That's a big thing," he said. "Secondly, we are also going to involve our BPS Inter-High Council to engage students with making sure that they are using their peer influence to increase attendance at our high schools."
There have long been complaints that even the data is skewed, by students who show up late and leave early, as they are listed as being present, but may leave after lunch.
Many Board members said there are a variety of reasons for absenteeism, from illness, to families taking time off to visit family members in prison, to just skipping class, to not enough attendance teachers to follow-up with missing students. North District Board Member Hope Jay said determining why they skip class would be very helpful.
"If we don't understand what the basic underlying issues and problems are, then how do we develop a strategy or even theorize, right?" Jay said. "What is the way to attack an issue if we don't understand what the underlying issues are?"