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Posted September 10, 2013

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APS to Tackle Truancy

"September is National Attendance Awareness Month. What we’re really talking about here is truancy. It’s a big problem for schools across the nation including Albuquerque Public Schools. It’s a difficult issue, but certainly not insurmountable." Read Superintendent Winston Brooks' column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs in these tough economic times know how important it is to show up on time and ready to work each and every day. A few sick days a year sometimes can’t be helped, but chronic absences hurt productivity.

Miss a lot of work and our bosses aren’t happy. Miss a lot of work and we fall behind, fail to stay competitive, lose the trust of our co-workers. Miss a lot of work and we stop learning, improving, advancing.

Miss a lot of work and we’re fired.

Why don’t we seem to understand that this also is true for our students? Their work is school, and chronic absences are having a detrimental effect on their ability to learn, improve, advance.

September is National Attendance Awareness Month.  What we’re really talking about here is truancy. It’s a big problem for schools across the nation including Albuquerque Public Schools. It’s a difficult issue, but certainly not insurmountable.

Let’s set the backdrop:

  • Every year as many as 75 million students nationwide are chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of the school year.
  • Children who are chronically absent have much lower reading scores than those who attend class on a daily basis.
  • A student who misses 10 days or more during a school year is more likely to drop out of school, not get a high school diploma and not enroll in college.
  • High school dropouts have 60 percent more absences in first grade than high school graduates.

There’s no doubt truancy negatively impacts a student’s life, both now and in the future. If students aren’t in class they’re not learning, they’re not developing relationships, they’re not mastering subjects and getting help they need. And, perhaps most importantly, they’re not learning life skills and dispositions for successful futures.

Truancy is definitely on the APS radar this year. Our main focus is early intervention because, believe it or not, that’s where we see the most chronic absences.

We’re piloting a truancy prevention/intervention programs in 17 of our schools.

Students who have had a lot of unexcused absences will be identified for more intense intervention. Parents will be notified after the first two unexcused absences and a process will be followed to deal with the problem if it persists.

The goal is to open the channels of communication so we better understand what the barriers are that stand in the way of our students getting the education they deserve, and then following through with the help we have available. If there’s something going on in a student’s life that’s causing them to miss school, maybe we can play a role in finding solutions and connecting families to school and community resources.

This isn’t just a school issue, and we’re asking that parents, businesses and the community lend a hand where they can.

Like the Albuquerque New Car & Truck Dealers Association. For years now, the Association has sponsored a new car giveaway for high school students with perfect attendance.  Allante Vanderslice of Eldorado was this year’s big winner. Vanderslice has had perfect attendance for the past ten years.  When recently honored by the APS Board of Education, the senior thanked his parents for the encouragement, his teachers who made him want to go to school and the car and truck dealerships for engaging the community on this issue.

Wise words we can all take to heart from a young man who understands the value of showing up.

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