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December 3, 2013 > Combating truancy

Combating truancy

Submitted By Newark Unified School District

Already a big believer in the role good attendance plays in higher student achievement, Newark Unified Superintendent Dave Marken recalls being stunned to learn how state prison officials use third grade truancy rates to plan for future capacity needs.

ÒIt makes an impression Ð the correctional system analyzes elementary school attendance rates to estimate how many will end up in prison,Ó Marken said. ÒPeople are just shocked by this. There are enormous social and economic consequences we can point to that start when kids in the earliest grades fail to come to school.Ó

To combat the trend in the 6,400-enrollment, K-12 district, Marken has instituted a new program that not only more aggressively monitors absenteeism but also engages parents and families as well as the rest of the community in an effort to promote a Òculture of showing up.Ó

A key message, Marken said, is to make parents especially aware that missing class for family events or an occasional vacation day undermines the schoolÕs core mission.

ÒThereÕs a subtle message being communicated when a parent takes a kid out of school to go visit grandma or so they can run some errands,Ó he said. ÒIt plays out later when the child is old enough to make some of their own decisions and thatÕs when we see behaviors that put a studentÕs academic career at risk.Ó

The new attendance strategy includes a software-based management system that provides more accurate data and district-wide communication, as well as an overall commitment to creating expectations within the entire school community that good performance starts with good attendance habits.

Marken also noted that his program comes forward at the same time California Attorney General Kamala Harris has called attention to the stateÕs growing crisis around truancy and chronic absenteeism, noting that nearly 40 percent of all K-12 students were categorized as truant last year, including one out of every five enrolled in elementary schools.

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