Working With Schools to End Truancy
LOWELL — Focusing on a unified effort to stop chronic student absences at every school, officials are launching a citywide attendance-awareness campaign to keep Lowell Public School students in the classroom.
The campaign, in partnership with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Lowell police and the Lowell Youth Development Collaborative, will emphasize the importance of attendance at every school.
“Each day that a child’s not in school, whether it’s excused or unexcused, can be detrimental to their learning,” Assistant Superintendent Jeannine Durkin told staff during training just before the start of the new school year.
The campaign seeks to reduce chronic absenteeism — when students miss 10 percent or more of the school year.
In the 2014-2015 school year, the district’s chronic absence rate was 16.9 percent, or about 2,300 students. That’s four percentage points higher than the state average.
The campaign comes just as Lowell High increased its graduation rate to 78.8 percent for the 2014-2015 school year, while also reducing its dropout rate by more than half to 1.8 percent.
Officials are hoping to extend that same success throughout the district.
The initiative expands upon partnerships the district has with the Lowell Juvenile Court, the Department of Children and Families and the NFI Family Resource Center.
Every school will hang a banner that tells students: “The road to success begins with good attendance.
The DA’s office and Lowell Police Department donated $1,000 each to the campaign for printing materials and fliers to hand to parents.
The campaign also plans to purchase maroon-colored wristbands for every student in the school district with the message, “Attendance matters!”
In the future, campaign organizers hope to partner with local businesses to offer discounts to students who have missed only four days or less for the quarter.
“Every day they are not in your care, they are at risk,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told staff. “My goal is to keep them safe in the present, and they are clearly safer when they are at school.”
Chronic absenteeism includes both excused and unexcused absences.
The campaign seeks to reach out to the medical community, telling doctors about the issue of chronic absenteeism and suggesting that medical visits be scheduled outside of school hours.
The effort will try to reach every student in the city, said Attendance Supervisor Heather Ganley.
“Addressing the need before the child becomes chronic is what we’re really trying to establish,” she said. “We’ve kind of had that piece missing.”
Article from the Lowell Sun –