Mayor Launches Anti-Absenteeism Drive
On Monday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg launched the City’s first multimedia campaign to reduce truancy and chronic absenteeism in City schools. The campaign, called Wake- Up! NYC was developed by the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy and Chronic Absenteeism, led by John Feinblatt, the Mayor’s Chief Policy Advisor. The WakeUp! NYC campaign will begin next week with automated phone calls to students in a core group of 25 schools with principals who have volunteered to participate in the Task Force’s work this year, and then expand to chronically absent students citywide. Campaign partners including Viacom and their BET Networks division, 98.7 KISS FM, Hot 97 FM and 101.9 RXP FM will also encourage school attendance every day on-air and through social media. Through WakeUp! NYC, students will receive phone calls with pre-recorded morning wake up messages from Magic Johnson, Jose Reyes, Big Boi, Terrence J and Rocsi, from BET’s 106 & Park and award-winning artist Trey Songz as well as other celebrities from program partners Viacom. The Mayor also announced early results from the truancy program for the first half of the school year, which showed improvements in many schools.
“Through WakeUp! NYC we’re putting on a full-court press, using mass media and digital media to drive home the point that every student should be in school every day,” said Bloomberg. “It’s the next step in our efforts to cut absenteeism and put more students on the road to success, in school and in life.”
“We believe strongly in the power of media and entertainment to address social issues facing our country,” said Viacom Chief Operating Officer Tom Dooley. “Ensuring that our country’s young people have the education they need to succeed is critical to the future of New York City and the future of this country. But you can’t learn if you don’t come to school. That’s why Viacom and the Get Schooled Foundation are excited to support Mayor Bloomberg’s WakeUp! NYC campaign.”
“We want all of our students to excel and become successful adults, and good attendance will help them reach that goal,” Schools Chancellor Cathie Black said. “We are working hard to reduce chronic absenteeism, and thanks to the Mayor’s Task Force, we have seen a significant drop in chronic absenteeism at the Isaac Newton Middle School. We know we have a long way to go, but this is a good start.”
“We are focusing largely on students in elementary and middle school because absenteeism in those grades is predictive of school failure and drop out,” said John Feinblatt, who oversees the Mayor’s Task Force. “Research shows that if we can change attendance patterns in those years, we will reduce high school drop out rates, and produce better educational outcomes. And if we don’t deal with the problem now, we’ll be stuck dealing with much worse problems in crime, government dependency and poverty.”
“The WakeUp! NYC campaign will help educate students and parents about the importance of attendance every day and the dangers of chronic absenteeism for school, and life, success,” said Leslie Cornfeld, chair of the Mayor’s Task Force. “Our media partners in this campaign will help us generate a new awareness about the importance of school every day –amplifying the impact of the many new, multiagency strategies the Task Force is piloting at our schools and elsewhere this year.”
The Mayor was joined at the announcement, held at Isaac Newton Middle School in Manhattan, by Black, Cornfeld, Feinblatt, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond, NYC Service Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford, Administration for Children’s Services Assistant Commissioner Dale P. Joseph, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Assistant Commissioner for School Health Roger Platt, Department of Youth and Community Development Assistant Commissioner William Chong, and Isaac Newton Middle School Principal Lisa Nelson.
The Mayor was also joined by media partners including Viacom’s Chief Tom Dooley; Emmis Communications Community Outreach Director Reggie Nance; Jose Reyes; Terrence J and Rocsi, and Trey Songz.
Through the WakeUp! NYC campaign, chronically absent students and students at-risk of becoming chronically absent will receive inspirational wake up phone calls to encourage them to attend school. The pre-recorded messages stress the connection between success in school and success in life, because research shows that children and parents too often fail to make the connection.
The WakeUp! NYC campaign will start next week when over 6,500 students at the 25 schools, who have missed 10 or more days of school this academic year, will receive a phone or email message inviting them to participate in the WakeUp! NYC campaign. After this introductory period, the WakeUp! NYC campaign will expand to approximately 250,000 chronically absent students citywide.
The WakeUp! NYC campaign will also include “good news” calls to congratulate students for strong or improved attendance. Research suggests that celebrating improved attendance helps promote attendance. Conversely, students whose chronic absenteeism does not improve, in addition to additional interventions by the Task Force, will receive telephone absence alerts notifying the student and parents about the serious nature of the student’s attendance patterns. The WakeUp! NYC telephone calls will be made through SchoolMessenger, a communications company focused on connecting schools and families, which has underwritten the cost of implementing the call campaign to all chronically absent students in NYC.