It would be obscenely funny if the consequences were not so grim and real for so many Dallas high school students.
Caught violating state attendance laws by graduating seniors who were not present for a large chunk of class time, a former Dallas ISD administrator called the attendance laws, “stupid.” We can only wonder why this school administrator was so willing to take her high salary which was available through the only revenue stream available in Texas schools: student attendance.
Not to be outdone, Trustee Mike Morath called attendance laws, “soul crushing” for high performing students. Trustee Solis chimed in with his approval of high levels of student truancy.
As Trustee Morath is well aware, there is a whole menu of opportunities for high performing high school students. They can use Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual credit, and independent study in gifted and talented programs. Even our smartest kids would not be in danger of having their souls crushed with such a plethora of options. The whole debate over seat time is specious in terms of the consequences of truancy for urban, poor youth. If Morath actually had any experience in urban high schools, he would find out how unbelievably dangerous and idiotic his remarks are.
Skipping school is one of the most dangerous activities a teenager can indulge. For poor, minority children who are often years behind in their academic development, calling attendance at school an option is actually so irresponsible that it is akin to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Where were a quarter of the Dallas ISD seniors of 2013 during the time they were supposed to be in school?
According to Morath, these were all high achieving students bored with the classwork they had already mastered. They were so special, just like Morath, that seat time at school was a waste of their young lives.
Maybe middle and upper income white boys, fully entitled in every way, should have special permits to leave school whenever the whim hits. Maybe Superintendent Miles doesn’t know enough to actually raise the level of academic challenge for these high performing students.
For the rest of the students, the other 90% served by Dallas schools, truancy is a short gateway leading straight to prison, pregnancy, drugs, and very dangerous peer groups who gather in Skip Houses.
Once a student starts skipping school, it works just like a narcotic. These students fall behind in their classes and don’t want to return to school. Some of these students were actually high performers who were not sufficiently challenged by their classes. That lack of challenge has nothing to do with lax attendance policies that direct teenagers right on to the mean streets of Dallas, Texas.
Lack of academic challenge doesn’t make the streets of Dallas any safer for these teenagers, many of whom engage in delinquent behavior during their skip days.
Young girls are in danger of becoming young mothers who will generally have a second child before leaving their own teenage years.
Teachers know the scenario. There are teachers whose classes are not adequately differentiated for high performers. These teachers need assistance in increasing the options for students so that every student is not moved through academic standards at the same pace.
Of course, Superintendent Miles has done nothing to guarantee all classrooms have the computers and technology that aid in creating different instructional sequences for kids who need a faster pace or more challenge. And using differentiated techniques doesn’t fit Miles’ demands that teachers use his instructional template with its choral responses.
But back to those mean streets.
Suggesting teenagers can just opt out of being at school increases their chances of being arrested, failing school, becoming teenage parents, and meeting up with other dangerous characters whose life occupations include drug dealing, theft, and mindless wandering.
Calling strict attendance laws, “stupid” or “soul crushing” does nothing to eliminate the life-long consequences for truants. Just like dropouts, they are on a path to destitution.
For a former DISD central administrator and current Trustees to attempt to cover potential attendance fraud with words to dilute the impact of violations of state law should cause every taxpayer in Dallas to take a long look at the quality of the current Board.
Trustee Mike Morath also made false statements concerning most charter school practices. Charter schools don’t want truants. Charter schools keep the doors open through student attendance monies.
Trustee Morath’s insistence that he knows education research is once again proven false. Morath knows very little about public education and nothing about the needs of the majority of Dallas high school students.
Crossing the line into suggesting practices that violate the safety of thousands of Dallas high school students, however, is far more serious.
Parents, taxpayers, and the Texas Education Agency need an investigation not only into Dallas high school attendance violations, but into the message being conveyed by a Dallas school Trustee who is suggesting false attendance records are due to the boredom of high achieving students.
If this is Morath’s version of a Home Rule District, imperiling the safety of thousands of teenagers through risky behavior, it’s one more reason to say no to Home Rule.