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Priority Watch: Computer Tracking Systems versus Children

Hal Identifying dysfunctional schools is about as difficult as tracking an elephant with a bloody nose through the snow. But the Education Trust wants another 100 million dollars of federal money for computer systems to document our failures. When the system goes on line, in time for NCLB III, we can paint an exquisitely horrific picture of the effects of poverty on school children. Then, someday over the rainbow, we will work out all of the loopholes in a complex, multi-measures system for data-driven accountability. At that point, we can start to turnaround our worst schools - if we can persuade the taxpayers to provide the mega-billions that would be required.

The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that 10% of children are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade. In some areas, nearly one in four children are chronically absent in grades K-3. Why not invest that $100 million dollars in tracking down and serving those vulnerable kids? Why not create a "Grow What Works" model for contacting families after three absences? Wouldn’t we get more "bang for the buck" by visiting the homes of children who miss five days of school? If we really believe in the transformative power of education, we must heed the recommendation that chronic early absence must be a "trigger" for early intervention and that, "Schools and communities can benefit by embedding attention to chronic early absence in relevant initiatives focused on, for example, school readiness, afterschool programs, school-based health services, and dropout prevention."  - John Thompson

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