SIMMONS: Paying the cost of dropping out

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Some of the kids “we can’t ID,” Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier testified, and sometimes the youths are “picked up in the commission of a crime.”

Their favorite offense? “Burglaries,” the chief said.

The person chiefly responsible for keeping track of school-age youths is Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Michelle Rhee’s replacement. Ms. Henderson said the protocols for red-lighting truancy include letters and phone calls to parents and guardians.

Questions from Sekou Biddle, the lawmaker who chaired the hearing, and Ms. Alexander also touched on parental accountability, and on that issue Ms. Henderson said something quite telling.

“Many of our parents aren’t able to be good parents, quite frankly, because we failed them as students,” she said.

Well, not really. Schools can’t teach parenting.

Indeed, public schools make for a poor substitute while poor schooling makes for another excuse.

But Ms. Henderson also said that “if the instruction that’s happening in a classroom is not engaging and relevant, you want to pluck your eyelashes out.”

It’s great to hear her be so frank, but honestly, that doesn’t make me any less concerned about the untold number of Girl T’s and their enablers.

Dropouts and so-called chronic truants like Girl T are part and parcel of the silent epidemic that, because we haven’t thrown down the gauntlet on the front end, we end up paying on the other end.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, which examined the class of 2006-07, nationally, we will lose an estimated $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over the lifetimes of dropouts.

These are not kids who cut class to rent “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

And while some dropouts — such as Aretha Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Ansel Adams and Jack Kent Cooke — are notable for their achievements versus what they didn’t do, can you imagine Girl T growing up to be on par with any of them?

To Ms. Henderson’s credit, she did say this, too: “The truth of the matter is we need to go get her and bring her to school.”

Watch this space, because action speaks louder than words.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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