2010-08-27 / Top Stories

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Declares War On Truancy

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced the first steps of an ambitious new program by the Department of Education and other City agencies to reduce chronic absenteeism and truancy during the school year that starts next month.

The program is called “Every Student. Every Day” and was developed by the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy and Chronic Absenteeism led by John Feinblatt, the Mayor’s Chief Advisor for Policy and Strategic Planning. The program will first be deployed in a core group of 25 schools that will test pilot initiatives before they are brought to schools citywide.

The 25 schools have principals who have volunteered to participate in an innovative effort to combat below average levels of attendance.

To help reduce chronic absenteeism and truancy at the 25 targeted schools, the Mayor’s Task Force and the school chancellor, Joel Klein, will create the new NYC Success Mentor Corps, whose members will work with students to improve attendance.

The task force will also deploy new data tools that give teachers, principals and community partners the information they need to improve student attendance, and it will launch a comprehensive parent-student outreach campaign that includes a series of targeted Chancellor letters, phone calls, a video message from the Mayor and student incentives.

“At the beginning of the school year, 1,500 students who are most at-risk for attendance problems will be matched with a supportive school mentor, who will work to keep them in school and on track throughout the year,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We are also using data and community support groups in new ways, and reminding students and parents about the importance of going to school everyday. Too many children miss too much school, and truancy is often a child’s first step in the wrong direction. Students need to be in school: Every Student. Every Day.”

The Task Force, launched by the Mayor on June 10, has focused its first efforts on developing responses to early warning signals in a child’s early years – before truancy is an entrenched habit. While overall daily attendance rates, which have been steadily increasing in recent years, averaged 91 percent last year in New York City, there are pockets of school children who miss far too much school. About 20 percent of all City school students missed one month of school or more last year. Research shows that three out of four students who are severely chronically absent in the sixth grade never graduate from high school. In New York City, over 80 percent of children in the juvenile justice system had missed a month or more of school; 40 percent had missed two or more months. Absenteeism rates are highest in low-income communities, where school offers students the best opportunity for future success.

The Interagency Task Force that developed these initiatives is headed by John Feinblatt, the Mayor’s Chief Advisor for Policy and Strategic Planning, and chaired by Leslie Cornfeld, a former federal prosecutor, who served as director of the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Child Safety and Welfare after the tragic child abuse death of Nixzmary Brown.

The Mayor’s Task Force and the Department of Education selected the 25 schools based on the presence of strong leadership, well-estab- lished community partners and above average rates of chronic absenteeism.

There are ten elementary schools, eight middle schools and seven high schools in all five boroughs that will test the comprehensive, multiagency strategy before it is expanded.

The initiatives that were announced lastg week are the result of several months of extensive data analysis, research, field visits, and outreach to hundreds of individuals from New York City and the country, including school personnel at all levels, community organizations, advocacy groups, academic institutions, faith based leaders and representatives from all levels of government with expertise in this area.

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