Why Johnny won't stay in school

January 09, 1995

According to the fifth annual Maryland School Performance Program Report released last month by the state Department of Education, Anne Arundel County schools are doing fairly well. Overall, the county met 11 of 13 standards established by the Board of Education, and students made significant gains in their scores on reading, math and citizenship tests.

But there were two failing grades on Anne Arundel's report card: attendance in grades seven through 12 is too low and the high school dropout rate is too high.

The county's attendance rate dipped from 94.2 percent in the 1992-93 school year to 93.9 percent last school year, just missing the 94 percent the state considers satisfactory.

The county's dropout ratio is more worrisome. In five years, the Anne Arundel school system has never met the state's standard.

Last year, the rate was 4.46 percent, up from 3.76 percent the year before. The state considers a dropout rate of no more than 3 percent satisfactory.

After the results were released, school officials were quoted as saying they plan to look for ways to make the curriculum more attractive and to provide extra counseling to students who may be at risk of dropping out.

But teachers and administrators can only do so much because they really aren't the ones to blame for the problem.

Parents and guardians must take responsibility for sending their children to school. They must see that their children get out of bed and get on the school bus.

It is their job to follow up if they are notified that their child has been absent from class. It is parents' responsibility to stress the importance of education and to provide encouragement to their teen-agers if they announce that they want to quit school.

We expect the schools to teach the children and we hold educators partly accountable when students don't perform well on tests, but parents and guardians must be responsible as well. The quality of the schools and the abilities of the teachers mean nothing if a child does not go to class.

The latest indications from the state education department are that the Anne Arundel public schools are doing a satisfactory job teaching the county's children.

It is parents who are failing.

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