It’s good news that communities and schools are starting to pay serious attention to the problem of student absence and truancy. After all, teachers can’t teach children who simply aren’t there. Students who miss a lot of school are very likely to fail, drop out and struggle throughout their lives.
Some of the renewed emphasis is encouraging and likely to result in better school attendance. More resources to monitor attendance in Baltimore City, problem solving approaches like the University of Maryland’s Truancy Mediation Center, and implementing PBIS* in high absence schools are examples of using best-practices to help solve a serious problem.
But one approach used state-wide is ineffective and needs to stop: that is the practice of suspending or expelling students for tardiness and truancy. In the 2006-7 school year, more than 13,000 suspensions were issued by Maryland schools for poor attendance. It shouldn’t be surprising that there is no evidence to support this approach: it doesn’t fix the reasons for students’ absences; it ensures that truant students will fall further behind in school; and, it burdens teachers and other students when the student returns to the classroom, even further behind.
Worst of all, it actually gives a truant student permission to miss more school.
It’s time for a state-wide ban on suspensions for truancy and tardiness. Let’s use our common sense and enact policies that give truant students less time to goof off, not more.
OSI has just published a series of three papers on student attendance that outline the problem and highlight effective solutions, such as the ones mentioned above. If you are interested in learning more, they can be found on our web site, www.osi-baltimore.org.
* PBIS is an approach to improving school climate and academic outcomes that sets school wide behavioral rules and expectations, collects, analyzes and addresses situational, teacher and student data related to behavioral infractions, and categorizes youth into three zones, depending upon the level of intervention required by the student to be successful in the school.