EDUCATION: Tackling truancy

Tom Richards. FILE PHOTO


The Rochester school district is gearing up to launch a comprehensive approach to combat truancy this fall. The approach would include the district, the City of Rochester, county social services, the Rochester Police Department, and Family Court, says Rochester Mayor Tom Richards.

The details of the program are being kept under wraps, but Richards says the approach has shown success in at least one other school district in New York State.

“Our hope is that we can transport it here without a hell of a lot of redesign work,” he says.

Chronic truancy is a serious problem for the Rochester school district. Thousands of students are out of school without explanation every day, with the most absences occurring in kindergarten.

That’s why the new program will initially focus on the elementary schools, Richards says. Truancy is obviously a problem at the secondary level as well, but to make a real cultural shift, you have to get to the children and the families early, he says.

“The feeling here — and there’s a lot of research to support this — is you can predict on the basis of the behavior that develops in elementary school, the kind of behavior you’re going to have in high school,” Richards says. “And it’s a heck of a lot easier to deal with it,” he says, if you start in elementary school.

The new program will have three phases. The first is to improve the way the district records attendance, Richards says.

The second step is acting on that data.

“That’s where we come in, the school district comes in, social services to some extent comes in,” Richards says. “What do we do?”

The third step is enforcement, and that could mean using Family Court to compel parents to get their children to school.

“It’s kind of a last resort, but as a parent, you’re supposed to take your kid to school,” he says. “That really would only be necessary if there was something about the family structure that was out of whack.”



  1. The mayor said: “The feeling here — and there’s a lot of research to support this — is you can predict on the basis of the behavior that develops in elementary school, the kind of behavior you’re going to have in high school,”

    Yet… our evaluations are significantly impacted by the test results of these same kids. If the research supports this conclusion, then my belief that the current evaluation system is more than seriously flawed is equally supported.


    1. “The details of the program are being kept under wraps…” WHY???

    2. “The third step is enforcement, and that could mean using Family Court to compel parents to get their children to school.” SOUNDS LIKE A ROUTE TOWARDS MORE CRIMINALIZATION — AS OPPOSED TO HUMANISTIC, APPROPRIATE, ADEQUATE PREVENTION, INTERVENTION, AND SUPPORT.



    Howard J. Eagle

  3. Jim Strauss · · Reply

    There needs to be an open forum to discuss the “lots pf research that supports this.” I have heard that there will be one on July 17. Can anyone confirm. If the city and county social services can get these truant kids to participate regularly in school without “criminalizing” the parents, I want to look at that program. In 2011, the graduation rate fell slightly to 45.5 %. Many point to this as part of the problem. I’d like to see the program out from under wraps so we citizen stakeholders can make an evaluation of it.

  4. teddiu · · Reply

    So will they be providing busing for all the children in K? Will there be wake up calls to get the kids up and dressed on time to get on the bus? Kindergarten is not mandatory? Are they going to do something about that?

  5. Mr. Yugoboy,

    I think you missed the whole point of the Mayor’s quote, which you cited. The main point is NOT that inappropriate “behavior that develops in elementary school” is inevitably the same ‘behavior you’re going to have in high school,” which is obviously what you believe. You missed the point that if such behavior develops in elementary school, it is likely to continue in high school IF adequate and appropriate intervention and support is not put in place. I think (unlike you), the Mayor gets it (basically). However, indications are that he may not understand, or even have a clue about the concepts and realities of “adequate” and “appropriate.”

    Haven’t you heard or read that NYSUT, RTA and others are declaring victory regarding the issue of so-called teacher evaluations? There is no need to worry, and here’s why:

    More than likely, the entire evaluation debacle will turn out to be nothing more or less than another big, political con-game — an unfortunate distraction away from critically important issues that really do matter relative to the possibility of widespread, fundamental change and academic improvement for our students.

    No one, and I do mean no one (not the Governor, nor the Legislature, Commissioner of Education, Board of Regents, parent “leaders,” unions or anyone else has put forth any thing that even resembles a logical, coherent explanation regarding the method by which a “new” evaluation system will somehow magical translate into widespread academic improvement for students. The whole idea is simply ludicrous. I guarantee (without hesitation) that in 5 or 6, or 7 or 8 years from now — we will look back, and necessarily conclude that the “new” evaluation system (in and of itself) has not been any more meaningful or effective than the old.

    If the pervasive, urban education crisis revolved mainly around an evaluation system – – – the one currently used in the Rochester City School District (if properly and consistently implemented) would be more than adequate.

    The real, objective truth of the matter is that there are so many deep-seated issues and problems faced by huge numbers of urban students (not only in Rochester and other parts of New York, but throughout this thoroughly racist, nation-state) — that it’s going to take far more than tinkering around the edges and silly notions about evaluating people — in order to effectively address the crisis, which in Dr. Jonathan Kozol’s words represents “The Shame of the Nation.”

    In fact, many are unequivocally convinced that, with regard to solution, nothing less than a full-fledged sociopolitical movement will be or can be effective, that is — focused, consistent, constant cooperative, collaborative activities/action by substantial numbers of parents, grandparents, guardians, students, educators, activists, politicians, including school board members and superintendents, and anyone else who is serious about widespread change and improvement, which must center around agreed-upon, specific, concrete, measurable goals, strategies and tactics. All else is merely rhetoric and noise.

    The true essence of the recently approved, paper-tiger, so-called :”state-wide evaluation system for New York teachers was summed up perfectly by Assemblyman Joel Miller, who was quoted by one news source as having said that “the bill was pointless. He said he didn’t think the evaluations would provide much valuable information. He pointed out that the evaluation standards haven’t even been finalized. The evaluations are required to be in place for the coming school year. I doubt if there’s a single person in this room [the New York Sate Legislative chambers] right now that believes that the system, which still hasn’t been described because it doesn’t exist yet, will produce data that is worth knowing, Miller said.”

    I just hope that parents, particularly those whose children are suffering the most, won’t fall for the o-kee-doke — won’t end up being bamboozled and hoodwinked into believing that the so-called “new” evaluation system represents some type of magical panacea for change and progress. It clearly does not.

    Howard J. Eagle

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