The city Department of Education says student attendance has been solid this year, despite COVID-19 — but major gaps in data cast doubt on that claim.
Hundreds of city schools are not reporting in-person attendance each day, according to an analysis of DOE reports issued this week.
On Wednesday, for example, city schools officials said that 88 percent of students showed up for both remote and classroom learning.
But on the same day, 421 city schools — roughly a quarter the whole system — did not provide attendance information for classroom learners.
Of those, 90 also failed to submit remote instruction attendance.
A DOE spokesperson said that the data deficits do not compromise the agency’s daily attendance figure.
“Daily attendance data is always preliminary and every year there’s a lag in reporting on a day to day basis,” said Nathaniel Styer.
Styer said that schools don’t submit numbers for several reasons and that some may not offer in-person instruction on particular days.
David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor, said public faith in attendance numbers has hit a new low this year.
“Attendance data has always been murky,” he said. “But it’s never been murkier than it is today.”
Bloomfield noted that state aid is tied to attendance and that schools are motivated to keep their numbers up.
“I think it’s meaningless for any layperson’s judgement about classroom presence and learning,” he said.
Styer stressed that schools are still adjusting to the complexities of an academic year that has been upended by the coronavirus.
He said that administrators are now tasked with tracking both remote and classroom learners this year and that the number of kids in each group has been in constant flux.
The reliability of remote learning attendance numbers has also been questioned since individual schools are allowed to determine what counts as a present student each day.
“The main concern here is disconnected kids,’ said a Brooklyn elementary school teacher. “I’m not sure we have a real idea of who is engaged and who isn’t right now.”