First Steps- What are the schools doing?

Chronic Absenteeism is an issue that schools are beginning to hone in on. One initiative at Danbury High School in Connecticut, is called “Twilight”. The initiative, is the result of the Danbury Board of Education accepting the Nellie Mae Grant to for a coherence program. The vision behind this program is academic-based after-school program. Currently, Twilight is focused on helping freshman students who have failed math and science in the first semester of their Freshman year. Once the students who have failed are identified, they are offered opportunity to stay after school twice a week to redo the first semester subject matter after school. This is accomplished by having staff assisting the students, as well as being provided transportation from the school bus company, to reach their homes. Once the course is completed, the first semester credits that were initially lost, are recovered, and students will not have to repeat the course next year and lose valuable time.

This is a smart approach, because students will not be held back, while at the same time they will understand the material that they will need for the next year. The Twilight initiative reports to the Student Governance Council at Danbury High School. The results show that for the past two years, since twilight began, the chronic absenteeism rates at the High School have dropped in about half. Is this focus on the academics the way to reduce kids from being absent and by proxy, decreasing their risk of entering the jail system?

I believe that this is one part of the issue, however, it is not the complete picture. I believe that the Academic vision is well-suited for high school but not for the younger grade levels. Additionally, for 112 students who were chronically absent in the past academic year (2013-2014), what lead to the empty chair in the classroom? According to a study by Balfanz, R., & Byrnes, V. (2012), published by The Everyone Graduates Center, the reasons can be divided into three broad categories:

  • Students who cannot attend school due to illness, family responsibilities, housing instability, the need to work or involvement with the juvenile justice system.
  • Students who will not attend school to avoid bullying, unsafe conditions, harassment and embarrassment.
  • Students who do not attend school because they, or their parents, do not see the value in being there, they have something else they would rather do, or nothing stops them from skipping school.

To achieve an 100% attendance rate every day is unrealistic. However, if efforts can be focused on these core three areas, in addition to projects like Twilight, then I believe that all of the pieces will be addressed.

What are some things that can be done to address these topics? Included below are some resources to refer to:

Bullybust

10 ways to be an upstander

Attendance Works– social media tools, banners, and posters


In the following weeks, the next topics to explore are:

  1. WHAT DOES THE DATA SHOW?
  2. EXPLAINING THE NUMBERS
  3. WHAT IS A JRB ?
  4. WHAT IS THE CORRELATION WITH THE ARRESTS/COURTS?

References:

Balfanz, R., & Byrnes, V. (2012). Chronic Absenteeism: Summarizing What We Know From Nationally Available Data. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools.

Danbury Public School Board of Education, September 10, 2014 Meeting Minutes. Page 18. http://www.danbury.k12.ct.us/bbadmin/bdmeetings/9-23-14%20boe%20packet.pdf

Everyone Graduates Center. http://new.every1graduates.org/

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