At least 23 percent of high schoolers are playing hooky from the city’s online learning efforts during the coronavirus chaos, according to new Department of Education numbers.
City principals began submitting remote learning engagement data on April 6 by tracking log-ins, completed assignments, parental contacts, and other metrics.
Through April 14, the connection rate for kids in grades 9 to 12 was just 77.1 percent — as compared to the 87.7 percent attendance rate for students physically going to school before the coronavirus closure, according to the data.
The DOE also acknowledged Thursday that the new figures don’t include 19 percent of the student body enrolled in schools that have yet to report attendance.
“Starting this week, we’re asking schools to conduct an additional focused round of outreach to students who are not consistently engaging to identify barriers and help students and families overcome them,” the DOE said in a statement.
City officials acknowledged the challenge of keeping kids connected during remote learning early on, stressing that many students lacked the devices needed to participate. The DOE has since been scrambling to fill that technology gap.
Unsurprisingly, teachers from across the city told The Post that engagement trends higher in more affluent sections and lags in lower-income areas.
“There are days when I’m lucky to get some type of contact with 20 percent of my kids,” said a Bronx elementary school teacher. “And half the time the numbers we have to call them or text their parents are bad or disconnected. It can be really hard.”
Another DOE staffer said that attendance does not always equate to instruction.
“If we are going to be honest, this is a mess at a lot of schools,” said a Queens high school administrator. “There is a serious learning loss that has to be acknowledged. And that’s across the board, at so-called good schools as well.”
But remote learning success stories also abound, with kids managing to mirror complete school days from their homes and even retaining some form of music and drama instruction.
Principal Karen Hambright of PS 243 in Weeksville, Brooklyn, said her attendance and instruction has been strong because she demanded parent engagement long before the crisis hit.
“We’re huge on building relationships,” she said. “My first goal is to engage and make contact and make sure they are okay.”
The city’s overall remote learning engagement rate for participating schools was 84.2 percent across all grades – down from 92 percent before the coronavirus shutdown.
The DOE noted Friday that remote learning participation does not equate to conventional attendance.
“This cannot be considered attendance in the traditional sense but helps us understanding who is and isn’t interacting daily, and is data we’re using to support students and prevent learning loss,” said DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot in a statement.
The DOE has given principals a wide berth in defining attendance and standards are being set by individual schools.
In addition to device log-ins and phone contacts, some schools are counting student participation in group chat forums and other unspecified connections.
“Moving 1.1 million students to remote learning was an unprecedented effort, and while we knew nothing could replace in-person instruction and support, we immediately shifted to develop a structure that made sense for schools and kept students involved,” Barbot said.
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