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CMS hopes attendance crackdown will boost student performance this year

Palisades High first day from CMS.png
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
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Students file into Charlotte-Mecklenburg's new Palisades High School on the first day of school Monday.

Now that students are back in school, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is turning its focus to attendance.

Even before the pandemic, CMS had identified chronic absenteeism as a major cause of academic failure and racial disparities. And schools across the country saw students disengage during remote classes.

This year, the district’s leaders are charged with undoing that damage. Counselors will quickly start trying to connect with students who aren’t showing up. Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh says CMS will enforce a pre-pandemic rule that students who have 10 unexcused absences per semester get an F.

"We have to send a message that we cannot move the dial on student achievement if kids stay home," he said Friday. "And we’re expecting teachers to be ready to provide great instruction. It’s not going to work if we have empty seats. So that’s the way the game is played."

Hattabaugh said there will be opportunities for students to make up missed days — but parents have to do their part too.

"Their child may leave that morning. They better make sure they showed up at school and are not at somebody’s house playing Xbox or the TikTok game or whatever they’re doing," he said.

The CMS board has set specific goals for improvement in reading and math scores. This week, North Carolina will release test scores that show whether students regained lost ground last school year.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.