TARGETING TRUANTS AT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Mayor Unveils Absentee Strategy In Glendale
Hoping to encourage more parents to make sure that their children attend school every day, Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to P.S. 91 in Glendale last Thursday, May 10, to announce the start of a new public relations campaign aimed at stopping chronic absenteeism and truancy.
The campaign, which is supported by AT&T and the Ad Council, includes advertisements printed on MetroCards which ask the question “It’s 9 a.m. Do you know where your children are?,” a play on the popular slogan heard prior to a local 10 p.m. news broadcast.
Local libraries will also work with the city’s Department of Education (DOE) on a quarterly outreach program to help parents learn more about their children’s attendance and performance records and, if necessary, find ways to encourage their sons or daughters to attend class more regularly.
According to Bloomberg, the campaign aims to inform parents and legal guardians about the negative consequences related to regular absenteeism from school, including an increased chance that truants may be held back a grade or wind up dropping out of school.
Bloomberg made the announcement at P.S. 91, which participates in the pilot anti-truancy program known as “Every Student, Every Day” and overseen by both the DOE and the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. Active at 50 schools across the city, “Every Student, Every Day” identifies students with chronic absentee issues and as- signs them with “success mentors” who work to resolve problems related to school attendance and encourage the youngsters to come to class every day.
The program and other efforts by the Truancy Task Force have proven successful, Bloomberg noted, resulting in an increase of 11,820 school attendance dates over the previous school year. However, the mayor indicated that more needs to be done.
“After working with schools and in communities, our Truancy Task Force has learned that many parents and guardians either don’t recognize the serious consequences of chronic absenteeism, or don’t know what do to about it,” Bloomberg said. “That’s why we are launching an ambitious, city-wide campaign to inform parents and connect them with the help they and their children need. Our latest data confirm that we’re taking steps in the right direction to curb absenteeism, and these new initiatives will keep us on track.”
Joining Bloomberg at last Thursday’s press conference were Chief Advisor for Policy and Strategic Planning John Feinblatt, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Truancy Task Force Chair Leslie A. Cornfeld, Task Force Advisor Dr. Robert Balfanz and P.S. 91 Principal Victoria Catalano.
“National research tells us that three out of four sixth graders, who are chronically absent, will not graduate. And when kids are on the streets, public safety is a concern,” Feinblatt said. “Of juveniles arrested in New York City, 79 percent had been chronically absent prior to their arrest. This campaign will help amplify the message that getting our kids to school every day is critical to their success in school and in life.”
“In New York City, one out of every five students missed a month or more of school last year—that’s over 200,000,” Walcott added. “And those rates are highest in our high need communities where school offers students the best chance for a brighter future.”
As described, the MetroCard antitruancy ads, which were designed by the Publicis New York advertising agency, ask New Yorkers to call 311 or text SCHOOL to 30364 to learn more about the city’s outreach pro grams for chronically absent students. Residents will also be directed to www.schooleverydaynyc.org, a website which links viewers to the Truancy and Absenteeism Help Center. The center offers a variety of resources to families and students such as tutoring and programs to aid those with chronic illnesses.
The website also directs parents to the DOE’s Aris website, where they can view their child’s attendance and performance records.
Additionally, the mayor noted, the Brooklyn, Queens and New York public library systems will team up with the DOE for “School Every Day” events that allow parents to meet with DOE officials to check their students’ records and seek resolutions to attendance problems.
The first such event will be held in Queens this Saturday, May 19, at the Queens Borough Public Library’s Central branch, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. Subsequent events will be held at the libraries every three months.
Programs such as “Every Student, Every Day” have proven to have made an impact on reducing chronic absenteeism and truancy this school year, the Mayor’s office noted. At pilot elementary schools, chronic absenteeism fell by 27 percent; the rate was also down 21 percent at middle schools and seven percent at participating high schools.
One of the students enrolled in the “Every Student, Every Day” program at P.S. 91 is Quinn Corcino Jr., a fifthgrader who missed 29 school days during the 2010-11 school year, but just three days in the 2011-12 school year.
“My success mentor is the reason I will never miss school,” he said. “She greets me every day, comes to my room and says ‘Good morning’ to me. And when I get perfect attendance in a month, she writes me a little note and gives me a pencil. She helped me and my family learn that I had to come every day. And she helped us solve a problem at home so I could get to school every day.”
“I have a chronically ill child, and it’s really hard—my son just sort of got lost. So he just didn’t get to school,” added his father, Quinn Corcino Sr. “He loves school now, his attendance is great and his grades are getting better, too. I really thank the school for what they did.”
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