April 25, 2007
Gaylon Nettles, the state Department of Education's chief attendance officer, is right in noting that neither parents nor schools can stem truancy on their own. It will take a strong community effort to keep children on the path to improving their educational and economic destinies. Here are nine recommendations to help reduce the number of chronic truants:
What the state must do
Revise school attendance data: Accurate data and clear attendance policies are the first steps needed to stem truancy. An official truancy rate, along with a revised attendance rate that better reflects levels of chronic truancy and out-of-school suspensions, is a must.
Improve community mental health care: Given the strong connection between mental health and school achievement, it's crucial to improve access to mental health treatment to help students stay in school.
What parents must do
Emphasize the value of
education: Turning around
Know where your children are: It's tough for children to skip school if parents are checking on their whereabouts. Taking them to school on your way to work, checking their homework, even an unexpected visit to their classroom will help keep them in line.
What schools must do
Expand the variety of school curricula: Boredom with classroom learning is a sign that students aren't engaged in learning. A wider array of more challenging curriculum, including Advanced Placement courses, will help lure some students back to school and keep them there.
End the overuse of harsh
school discipline: Administrators and teachers clearly have to maintain
order in classrooms, but research indicates that out-of-school suspensions are
used disproportionately in
Deal with bullying and school safety: Children shouldn't ever have to fear for their security within the confines of a school, especially when it comes to harassment from other students. Schools must figure out new ways to stem bullying and create an environment where students are safe and free of harm.
What the community must do
Be a nosy neighbor: Why are those children hanging out in your neighborhood during the school day? Help out by checking with their parents or notifying school authorities.