It is time to end unexcused absences for all children—especially for our youngest learners. Intervene early with family supports and services once an elementary school aged child has missed five days total of school. Use age-appropriate lessons at every grade level to teach students to reduce stress, successfully manage challenges, cope with complicated relationships, and deal with grief. Let’s ensure every child learns in a humane facility. And above all, fund the Kirwan Plan, including with the sale of real estate assets from municipal portfolios, if need be.
I became a foster mother at age 29 to a fifteen-year old girl for a year and half. In raising her, I learned about the dire need for big ideas in education policy – ideas around alternative education, accessible education for at-risk youth, and early hands-on learning experiences.
And when she became a mother several years later, the lack of affordable, quality early childhood education from infancy to pre-K4 stood out as an enormous roadblock to the progress of women and families.
Today, the COVID-19 crisis has placed in sharp relief the burden on working moms and the continued inadequacy of already strained and unequal resources for early childhood education.
Find and serve the lost generation.
We need to understand to what extent virtual learning is growing a lost generation and compounding Baltimore’s already severe problem of chronic absenteeism—especially for our youngest learners. We need a specific and well-resourced plan to bring these students and their families back to our school houses.
For ongoing accountability, we also need annual publication of the number of students who miss 10 days (6%) or more of school annually. This is the true scope of chronic absenteeism, not 18 days (10%) or more annually as BCPS regulations allow. Waiting until 18 missed days to count a child as chronically absent masks the extent of the problem.
We need to intervene early with family supports and services once any child has missed five days total of school—before they become chronically absent. This is especially true of elementary school age children. Once a child has missed three weeks, we are too late.
Teach children to manage stress.
Too many children in our city can’t focus on learning because of what being witness to violence does to their lives and psyche. We must use age-appropriate lessons at every grade level to teach students to how to handle trauma, reduce stress, successfully manage challenges, cope with complicated relationships, and deal with grief.
We need the tools and techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy to be everywhere to help students and their families get back on track after experiencing or witnessing violence.
Make facilities humane.
Our children need humane places to learn and grow—facilities with drinkable water, with reliable heating and air conditioning, properly stocked labs, expansive computer facilities, libraries, and well-designed spaces for extracurricular activities and sports. Every school must have a functioning HVAC system to be humane.
Get Kirwan done and get principals and PTAs more support now.
Our principals, teachers and parent teacher associations need champion advocates and more resources now. We want the Kirwan plan, and we must immediately get additional relief and support to our front line warriors, while we wait for its implementation.
As your delegate, I would build relationships with each principal and PTA to help match their immediate needs to immediate resources.
- Action Item 1: End chronic absenteeism. But first we must understand the true scope of the problem (measured at no more than 10 cumulative days annually) and we must understand the impact of virtual learning on chronic absenteeism in Baltimore.
- Action Item 2: Implement a curriculum for each grade level that teaches children how to handle trauma, reduce stress, successfully manage challenges, cope with complicated relationships, and deal with grief.
- Action Item 3: Fund the Kirwan Plan, including through selling or leveraging assets from municipal real estate portfolios.
- Action Item 4: Ensure the rapid modernization of every school in District 40 that is still waiting in line.
- Action Item 5: Establish and ensure safe walking paths to school for all children.