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Monday, January 14, 2008

No Children Left Behind … in John Bowne HS Classrooms After Random Scanning

On Thursday, January 10, a parent from John Bowne High School in Queens posted the following at the Yahoo Groups site nyceducationnews:

At John Bowne's PTA meeting last nite, the issue of scanning was brought up by the principal. We had scanning on Dec. 17. I asked what the attendance was for that day and the principal said the drop was between 18 and 23%…. He estimated that the overtime alone cost the school about $10,000.00….He had deans, APs, secretaries, teachers, etc. bagging and tagging electronic devices? Another mom asked what was confiscated, other than eds - 2 pockets knives, a box cutter and a couple bags of pot…. this AM, the outside of the school was crawling with (what I assumed) police officers (another waste of our tax dollars) and school security officers.

John Bowne's register shows 3,075 students, so using the midrange of the Principal’s estimate, a 20% drop in attendance means that the DOE created about 615 truants the day of their first scanning on December 17. Data posted by the DOE on John Bowne’s web page this weekend shows the following attendance data for last week, including last Thursday when the school was scanned for a second time.

Monday (1/7) – 78.2%
Tuesday (1/8) – 79.1%
Wednesday (1/9) – 78.5%
Thursday (1/10) – 63.7%
Friday (1/11) – 64.2%
Year-To-Date Attendance Rate – 79.7%

On Thursday, the date of John Bowne’s second recent random scanning, the school’s daily attendance dropped 16.0% from its year-to-date average. This drop translates into 492 extra absences, above and beyond the school’s normal daily experience. The next day (Friday), a decline of 15.5% from the normal daily attendance rate meant yet another 476 extra absences. Many John Bowne students were apparently scared off from coming back to school on Friday, or perhaps they simply decided to accept the DOE’s invitation to make it a four-day weekend.

Leaving aside this program’s emotional impact on students (see the NYCLU’s Criminalizing the Classroom report), the disruptions for school administrators and teachers, and the repeated intrusions on parents’ lives to retrieve their children’s cell phone or other electronics property, the DOE’s mobile random scanning program single-handedly created 1,583 extra absences/truancies in just one school in just three days. That's 9,498 lost academic periods, not even counting the lost first and second periods for most of the students who were in attendance those days. Add those 5,535 periods in (assuming 60% of students in attendance losing on average 1.5 periods on two scanning dates), and John Bowne students collectively lost over 15,000 academic class periods in order to find two pocket knives, a box cutter, and a couple bags of pot.

How can anyone possibly justify this continuing intrusion on children’s education? Can the DOE not at least offer the option of voluntary participation in this program, based on each Principal’s assessment of his or her school safety needs? Is this not what empowerment means?

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