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Count Day in Michigan

September 29th, 2010

They’ve always made a big deal about “count day” where I’m from. I’m sure other States do something similar. The idea is that the State uses the attendance count from this one day as the baseline count, and this attendance count is then used when the districts divvy up the State funding available for public schools.

The attendance count for the fourth Wednesday of every school year is used to determine 75% of state funding for schools statewide. It is a crucial day for cash-strapped public schools.

I always thought it was silly, but it’s especially silly now in the 21st century with digital everything. What’s the point of a single “count day”? Presumably every district — every school and every single classroom — has a “count” every day if they’re taking attendance. So using the attendance on a single day as proxy for overall participation and/or attendance in this day and age (c’mon, it’s not like someone has to manually tally all the attendance numbers) is about as retarded as a football bat. And it can easily be manipulated, something which Detroit Public Schools acknowledge through the “incentives” they put in place to get more kids to show up, skewing the numbers in their favor:

In Detroit, count day has become a festive affair in many schools. This year, it will include prizes, giveaways, face-painting, open houses and health screenings to make sure kids — and thereby state funds — show up to school. Parents who send their students for a full day will get a chance to win a Target gift card.

There is no reason to believe that a sample size of one is representative of an entire district’s daily enrollment/attendance. They should use a mean attendance; the average number of students attending school on a daily basis over the course of the year.


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no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics