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The Morning Bell: Fighting chronic absenteeism in Oklahoma schools

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The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

The state Department of Education announced Thursday it will launch a work group to study chronic absenteeism in public schools. 

“By initiating a focus on reducing chronic absenteeism across Oklahoma, we hope to reshape conversations between schools and families,” state superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a release. “This new focus works to identify and remove barriers to strengthen attendance and learning for individual students. Attendance matters for student success. It is essential for building academic momentum and progress for kids.”

What is chronic absenteeism? The state defines it as missing 10 percent (or approximately 18 days in a 180-day school year) and includes both excused and unexcused absences.

In Oklahoma City schools, some students reach that level before their first day of school, although it won't be reported as chronic absenteeism. Students are considered in attendance for the full year if they enroll before the 20th school day. But as many as 1,274 students in the district begin the school year sometime between the 10th and 20th day, which means they can be considered present for the full year but enter school already two weeks behind. (Read more here)

"Think of the flow of learning like a river, and if you are getting in at an entry point behind everyone else, it's going to be tough to catch up," said Greg Frederick, principal of U.S. Grant High School, who added he had a new student enroll on the last day before the current winter break.

Raiding land trust to fund teacher raises

Three legislators want to take money from Oklahoma's $2.4 billion school land trust fund to pay for teachers’ raises, but theTulsa World's Randy Krehbiel reports it would literally take an act of Congress — and a state constitutional amendment.

“We’re not against salary increases for teachers,” said Commissioners of the Land Office Secretary Harry Birdwell. “But this is not a source that can do this. You’d have to change the (state) constitution and the Oklahoma Enabling Act.”

Lawmakers Kevin Calvey of Oklahoma City, Tom Gann of Inola and Rick West of Heavener said Thursday afternoon that they will introduce legislation in the coming session to “require” the commissioners of the Land Office to provide funding for $5,000-per-teacher pay raises.

School received flood of support following fire

Superintendent Troy Gray of Wyandotte Public Schools is citing the “Oklahoma Standard” for an outpouring of generosity in the week following a fire that destroyed most of the district’s bus fleet. (Tulsa World)

After a possible electrical fire overnight on Jan. 10, Gray has received phone calls offering school buses from across Oklahoma as well as school districts in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.

Grand jury requests more time in Bixby case

The state’s multicounty grand jury reported Thursday that it needs more time to summon witnesses and for investigators to gather more evidence in the cases it heard this week, including the Bixby High School rape case.

Flu season hits schools

The flu season is closing schools in Oklahoma and excerpts say it has not yet reached its peak, reports the McAlester News Capital

“We have seen children and adults with respiratory illnesses who have received a rapid test and tested positive for the flu,” said Warren Clinic Director Michael Echelle. “It would be fair to say the influenza virus is widespread in the McAlester and Pittsburg County area.”

That's it for today's Morning Bell. Have a good weekend, see you Monday. 

Related Photos
The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018.   Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7896d2dc067e098babb1de92580ef2ad.jpg" alt="Photo - The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman" title="The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>The Douglass High School Drum Major looks back as he leads the band during the annual Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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