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letters | PUTTING MASS. STUDENTS ON THE RIGHT PATH

Before lengthening day, let’s make sure children get to school in first place

Re“Longer school day plan widens” (Page A1, Dec. 3): Extending the school day or school year is one way to provide more learning time for low-income students in Massachusetts. Reducing student absences is another.

According to data from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, students in high-poverty districts such as Boston, Springfield, and Holyoke miss an average of almost three weeks of school per year, while students in wealthy suburban districts such as Boxford and Lincoln-Sudbury miss an average of only five or six days per year.

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Because of the collaborative nature of classroom learning, absences affect learning opportunities for students who are in school as well as those who are not, and are particularly damaging in the early grades. City agencies and public school departments should join to first research why some students have difficulty getting to school every day, and then to create more services to reduce those difficulties.

It is a fundamental injustice that middle- and high-income students can get to school just about every day while many low-income children cannot.

Emily Dexter

Cambridge

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