PATERSON, NJ – By the end of December, 503 Paterson children from kindergarten through third grade already had been absent from school for more than 10 days, according to a presentation made at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting.
In fact, during the 2010-11 school year, 10,198 Paterson students – roughly 40 percent of the enrollment - were absent more than 10 days, and 3,714 of them – or about 15 percent – missed more than 20 days of school, said Rosie Grant of the Paterson Education Fund (PEF), an advocacy group.
Grant presented those alarming statistics to the school board as part of an update on the “Paterson Reads!” initiative, a cooperative effort between PEF and the school district to come up with a plan to reach the goal of having all city third-graders reading at their grade level. At present, just 33 percent of third-graders can do that.
“Paterson Reads!” has identified three targets areas in its effort to improve the reading abilities of city children: absences, early childhood education and summer learning. An action plan is supposed to done by the spring.
During her presentation, Grant also told the board that just 65 percent of Paterson’s kindergarten students had been in pre-K classes the year before. Those numbers are all the more disappointing, she said, because Paterson gets extra state money for its pre-K programs because it’s one of New Jersey’s poorer districts, eligible for the so-called Abbott funding.
“Paterson Reads!” is still in the process of gathering data on summer education opportunities for city children. City educators emphasize the importance of the summer programs.
“Youngsters fall behind during the summer months,’’ said state-appointed schools superintendent Donnie Evans.
Board of Education President Willa Mae Taylor said there are programs available, but families tend to focus on vacation and play during the summer. “The children and parents don’t understand you have to come to it,’’ Taylor said. “We had to give back money one year because the children didn’t attend.’’