Bloomberg fights chronic absenteeism

Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week launched a $9 million ad campaign aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism in public schools.
The campaign, created by AT&T and the Ad Council, includes a new Web site,, which includes a Truancy and Absenteeism Help Center and an ARIS Parent Link, which allows parents to track their kids’ attendance records.
According to Bloomberg, there are 200,000 chronically absent students in New York City public schools, meaning they miss at least two days of school a month, equating to a likeliness of dropping out before high school graduation.
“Such serious absenteeism clearly jeopardizes their ability to keep up in school, it’s also often a tip-off of students who face other troubles, unrelated health or emotional issues, neglect or abuse at home or serious problems that ned to be addressed right away,” Bloomberg said to reporters, city officials and students in the P.S. 91 Richard Arkwright School in Glendale on Thursday, May 10.
P.S. 91 is one of 50 pilot schools under Bloomberg’s “Every Student, Every Day” campaign launched in 2010. The program so far has supplied 4,000 at-risk students with mentors to help encourage them to go to school.
Absenteeism in the pilot elementary schools dropped 27 percent through the end of March, 21 percent in middle schools and 7 percent in high schools. The program will extend to 100 schools next year, according to Bloomberg.
The new ad campaign includes posters to be displayed on buses, kiosks and five million Metrocards starting next year, making it the largest anti-absence initiative in the country.
The poster displays the slogan, “It’s 9 a.m., do you know where your kids are?” along with a link to the online resource.
Also under the campaign, the 311 hotline will direct parents to the new online resource, and staff in public libraries will be trained to assist parents with tools to handle absenteeism.
According to national research, 75 percent of students who are chronically absent in sixth grade do not graduate high school.
“If that isn’t an early predictor of disaster for our children and this country, I don’t know what is,” Bloomberg said.
Focus groups held by the mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement, found that most parents don’t know that their kids are chronically absent, don’t know the reason or how to handle the issue.
“If you’re not at school, you can’t learn, and if you’re not coming to school, maybe there are other problems that you have or that the family has that would keep you from learning,” Bloomberg said. “Many parents and guardians either don’t recognize the consequences of chronic absenteeism or don’t know what to do about it.”
Quinn Corcino Sr., father of P.S. 91 fifth grader Quinn Corcino Jr., said his son went from missing 29 days of school last year due to a health issue his sister suffers from to three this year, and is now at the top of his honors class.
He said the “Every Student, Every Day” program raised awareness among parents, and gave his son mentors at school, who reward him with awards and encouragement.
“Having the mentors in place really made coming to school something for my son that was very gratifying,” the elder Corcino said. “They met him every morning and greeted him,”
He said the mentors speak with his son throughout the day and sometimes they sit together for lunch.
“He always speaks of his mentors highly,” he added.

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