We have an attendance problem in Baltimore. For the past three school years, over 40% percent of Baltimore City public high school students have missed a month or more of school making them chronically absent1 and last school year 49% of 9th graders missed at least a month of school.2
Imagine what would happen if you didn’t show up for work a couple of days each month.
We know that poor attendance leads to course failure, which very often leads to high school drop out.
While City Schools have begun to address this problem in earnest, I believe something important needs to be added to their efforts.
In the study, Students’ experience of the first term of high school, researchers with Flinders University School of Education asked students transitioning to high school, “What makes you most happy?” Nearly half of the students responded, “Being with friends.”
Friendships matter—fostering them to improve school attendance is my audacious idea.
We know that teenagers want to be with their friends and we know that some teenagers have difficulty making new friends.
What if every high school had a comprehensive program to facilitate friendships amongst their incoming 9th graders? City Schools should consider creating opportunities for new high school students to become friends, during summer transitional programs, through increased after-school opportunities, and by providing socialization time during the school day while also ensuring that students have the opportunity to talk and learn about positive relationships.
In Baltimore our high schools should intentionally schedule students so that they share classes. High schools should also provide students time to socialize through field trips, group learning, peer relationship groups, and pick-up games and sports.
I have it on the best authority, my teenager and his friends, that these kinds of activities and opportunities result in new friendships in new schools; where students should be.
2 The Baltimore City Student Attendance Work Group Presentation