Another bad mark for PPS

Another bad mark for PPS

Yet again, the news is not good for Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS).

Rocked by recent test results that showed already abysmal academic performance in key metrics further sliding, now comes word that one of the likely culprits of these continued pathetic results – chronic absenteeism – also is getting worse.

The Post-Gazette reports that district data suggest chronic absenteeism – that is, students missing more than 10 percent of their school days – is, halfway through the 2019-20 school year, on pace to increase by nearly 3 percentage points.

Thus far this school year, chronic absenteeism has risen from 25.4 percent in 2018-19 to 28.1 percent. The rate was 23.8 percent in 2017-18.

But a district official floats the possibility that the rise in chronic absenteeism might be a data collection error. PPS data boss Ted Dwyer says the data-collection system recently changed.

An “implementation dip” or “implementation bump” could be caused by discrepancies that arise between the time a new program is installed until it is performing properly, Dwyer told the P-G.

Additionally, Dwyer says teachers might not be recording attendance properly, i.e. marking as absent all day a student who might not show up for home room but arrives later.

System anomalies are one thing. Sloppy recording is another.

But if chronic absenteeism indeed has increased as the data’s first blush suggest, Pittsburgh Public Schools, a district, long in a shocking stall pattern, clearly has gone into a fatal spiral.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).