Students at Marie Reed Elementary School in northwest D.C. race to class on the first day of the 2017-18 school year. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Students at Marie Reed Elementary School in northwest D.C. race to class on the first day of the 2017-18 school year. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) welcomed students back to class for the traditional 2017-2018 school year, Monday, Aug. 21. With positive outcomes in various elements of the DCPS experience, city officials are going into the new year with a new focus: attendance.

Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off the first day of the school year with students and city administrators with a visit to the newly modernized Marie Reed Elementary School in Ward 1.

Marie Reed is a diverse dual-language school which shares space with several community partners including a Department of Parks and Recreation pool, Community of Hope dental clinic and a United Planning Organization child care center. The original building, constructed in 1977, began modernization in June 2016. The now complete renovation includes green roofing, water efficient fixtures, community and teaching gardens and other energy efficient features.

Just before the school visit, Bowser and other city officials stood at the intersection of Florida Avenue and 18th Street NW to remind motorists to slow down and use caution while school is in session. She held a similar campaign after school at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street Northwest.

The modernizations of schools, “slow down” campaigns and additional investments to school activities all support the Every Day Counts campaign, which Bowser launched Friday, Aug. 17.

The Every Day Counts campaign is an effort spearheaded by the Deputy Mayor for Education.

“Every school day is a new opportunity for students to learn and grow — to build on what they learned the day before and to prepare for the next day,” Bowser said. “Throughout the year, our educators put a tremendous amount of effort into ensuring that every day counts, but that effort only benefits the students who are in class and ready to learn. This year, we are doubling down on ensuring that all our families and students are connected to the resources they need to make it to school every day, on time.”

Bowser released Friday the results of the 2017 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), showing the second year of citywide growth in student performance across almost all grade levels and among almost all student groups.

After decades of decline, enrollment at DCPS has been gradually on the rise since 2011, and this year, city officials would like to address chronic absenteeism. Though in-seat attendance averages have increased steadily since 2010 from 85.1 percent to 89.9 percent through the 2015- 2016 school year, attendance remains an issue for DCPS schools.

“We need our kids in seats every single day,” Bowser said. “Consistent student attendance is a citywide challenge that touches every grade, every ward and every school.”

By sixth grade, missing 10 percent of the school year is strongly linked to dropping out of high school. More than 18,000 students, about one in four, are chronically absent in D.C, which means they miss 10 percent of more of all school days.

“Just missing one or two days a month can set our students back academically,” said Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles. “I’m excited to partner with our government agencies, schools, and community partners to empower students and families to overcome barriers to attendance. Every Day Counts is about getting out the right messages, rewarding progress, and working together to support every child and family in the District.”

Chronic absence affects every grade level and can have a long-term effect on preschool students, particularly. Missing just two days a month can put a student at risk of academic failure.

The Every Day Counts initiative will increase coordination across public agencies, raise awareness about the importance of attendance as it relates to student achievement, invest in data-driven strategies to increase attendance rates and reward students and schools that improve attendance throughout the school year.

Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her...

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