Reading Time: 4 minutes
\"The

\"Mark

Mark Uncapher

President

Mark Uncapher, is serving as President of the Montgomery County Republican Club. Mark is a long-time party activist who previously served as the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.

Maryland’s School Absenteeism Epidemic

Spiking “Hooky” Numbers Threatens New Kirwan Spending Impact

Just as the state has ramped up spending to implement the “Kirwan Blueprint,” many Maryland public schools are experiencing dramatic student absenteeism increases.   A Fox 45 Project Baltimore investigation concluded that between 2016 to 2022, the number of chronically absent Baltimore City students more than doubled, jumping from 23% to 58% in six years.[i] Chronically absenteeism is defined to cover students who are absent for 10% or more of school days.

\"Truant

Chronic absenteeism has historically been a significant concern for the city’s public schools.[ii] A lower percentage of students attend class in Baltimore City than in any other school system in Maryland. And chronic absenteeism has now hit its highest level in at least 20 years in the last school year.[iii] 

However, Maryland’s truancy problem extends beyond Baltimore City’s schools. Across the state, a quarter of Maryland students were chronically absent, which reflects an increase from under 20% the year before. County-specific numbers include Anne Arundel, 24%; Baltimore County, 33%; Carroll, 27%; Harford, 29%; and Howard, 21%.[iv]  Nearly a quarter of all Montgomery County Public School students are currently considered “chronically absent.”

However, according to MCPS officials, the absenteeism rate is much higher in some Montgomery County schools. School board member Grace Rivera-Oven says the truancy rate averages 50% at John F. Kennedy High School in Glenmont.  She notes that seventy percent of Kennedy’s student population is Hispanic or Latino. She was the lone board member to vote against appointing Kennedy’s new principal, partly because she wanted a principal more likely to address the school’s truancy epidemic.

\"\"

According to MoCo360, although Kennedy High School has a closed campus lunch policy, meaning students are not allowed to leave campus until the end of the day, the McDonald’s at Glenmont Shopping Center off Georgia Avenue has become a regular hangout for students skipping class.[v]

Yet, when asked to provide MoCo360 with data quantifying how often absenteeism occurs in individual MCPS high schools, spokesperson Jessica Baxter went into a bureaucratic denial crouch and declined because “the information is not readily available and must be accessed through a Maryland Public Information Act request.” [vi]  That MCPS’ leadership does not have these numbers readily available, is prepared to share them, and is focused on improving them is alarming.[vii]  

The sobering challenge facing Maryland educators is that whatever additional resources or strategies are furnished because of the Kirwan Blueprint, students who do not show up for school will not benefit. According to some educational metrics, most students chronically absent for two years can be expected to drop out.[viii]

Past research in the Baltimore Public Schools by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium flagged “chronic absenteeism” in sixth grade as a more reliable indicator of a future dropout than participation in English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) or special education services. Even scoring at the very lowest scale on national percentile ranks for math and reading was not as reliable a predictor of eventual non-graduation as chronic absenteeism.[ix]

School districts have drawn on the resources of nonprofits, such as Attendance Works, to improve their attendance metrics with strategies that identify and work with the most at-risk students. [x] Failure to fully acknowledge the absenteeism problem reduces the availability of community and other resources to combat the issue. [xi]

As Maryland increases its Kirwan Blueprint education spending over the coming decade, without students coming to class, especially those who are most at risk, the intended improvement will be challenging to realize.


[i] Education Crisis: 58% of Baltimore City Students considered chronically absent | WBFF (foxbaltimore.com)

[ii] https://foxbaltimore.com/news/local/council-calls-hearing-on-alarming-student-absenteeism-in-city-schools

[iii] Baltimore Gets Creative to Entice Chronically Absent Students to Return – Conduit Street (mdcounties.org) 

[iv]   https://www.marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Documents/2022/0125/EnrollmnetAndAttendanceRev1282022.pdf 

[v] https://moco360.media/2023/06/13/nearly-25-of-mcps-students-considered-chronically-absent/ 

[vi] MCPS to release plan to combat student absenteeism (moco360.media)

[vii] https://moco360.media/2023/03/29/mcps-to-release-plan-to-combat-student-absenteeism/ 

[viii] https://www.governing.com/now/chronic-absenteeism-is-a-huge-school-problem-can-data-help

[ix] http://baltimore-berc.org/pdfs/SixthGradeEWIFullReport.pdf

[x] https://www.attendanceworks.org/

[xi] Baltimore Schools reach out to families of students who frequently skip school (wmar2news.com)

About The Author

Scroll to Top