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Report: Truancy is taking its toll



Having trouble getting your teenager up in time for school? Ask Whoopi Goldberg to help. The celebrity wake-up call is one of many successful strategies employed by New York City to try to get kids to school on time.

A report based on a nationwide survey of truants — Skipping to Nowhere — released Tuesday by Get Schooled, a nonprofit that focuses on truancy issues, emphasizes the importance of developing new strategies to convince both parents and students that being in school on time each day is important.

“Absenteeism issues plague almost every community in America,” the report states. “It is not a problem facing only urban low-income students.”

Up to 15 percent or 7 million K–12 students miss 18 or more days of school each year, reports the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University and Attendance Works. Truancy typically begins in middle school and “becomes an established behavior by the end of 9th grade,” according to the Skipping to Nowhere report.

Students who miss more than 10 days of school are more than 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. Yet the survey of 516 truants in grades 8 through 12 — which took place in June in malls in 23 American cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco — showed that most teens who skip expect to graduate from high school, and many plan on attending college.

They come from all walks of life: 60 percent had two-parent families, and a third had parents who graduated from college. Most said their parents were unaware that they were skipping school. They were mostly white (55 percent), but Latino, African American, and Asian students were also interviewed.

The number one reason students gave for skipping was that school was boring, though 40 percent said school simply starts too early. Most students skip partial rather than full days. They ditch class to hang out with friends, sleep, watch TV, play video games, party, or surf the Internet. However, 12 percent reported that they take care of a family member or work at a job.

Most students said if they could see a clear connection between their classes and a job, they would be more likely to come to school. They want classes that have more hands-on activities, a teacher who cares, and friends they like.

They also said they would respond if adults showed some interest. If their parents, teachers, or famous actors, musicians, and athletes encouraged them to go to school, they said they would be more likely to attend — hence, the Whoopi effect.

 

Filed under: College Ready, Reforms

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8 Responses to “Report: Truancy is taking its toll”

  1. john mockler said

    on August 29, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Susan Who is “Get Schooled” who funds them and what is their credibility?

  2. el said

    on August 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I suspect that survey leaves a lot to be desired, since it misses one of the top reasons kids don’t go to school: bullying. I think also that high school students won’t always be honest about the real reasons they aren’t going to school, maybe not even with themselves. Shame, embarrassment, social stress have got to be a factor for some significant percentage, and that doesn’t even come up in the article.

    “Students who miss more than 10 days of school are more than 20 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers.”

    This is self-fullfilling, of course, because missing more than X (is x 15? I don’t remember) days earns you an automatic F for the class, even if the work is up to date and of acceptable or high standard. Thus, the student ends up not having enough credits to graduate, decreasing the incentive to attend even further.

    Note: missing more than X class periods because you’re on a sports team doesn’t earn you an automatic F. :-)

  3. Richard Moore said

    on August 29, 2012 at 11:12 am

    And once again a reporter thinks she has done her job — even with NO historical context. How many 18-24-year-olds had high school diplomas in 1930? 1950? 1970? Was there a trend? did we reach a limit? Or did we wake up yesterday and notice a 17-year-old standing on a corner with nothing to do?

    The schools of America get paid to do ONE thing. Educate? No. Take attendance! And they do it very well. Every minute of every day counts. So unless they are in their seats, we don’t get paid.

    Do we work to improve education by supplying a variety of tools, with a broad curricular appeal and ties to the working community? Or do we mandate the same routine in every class across the nation (Common Core)? Do we provide high quality libraries where students can (gasp!) choose their own reading and explore their own interests . . . or do we shut down the libraries and art classes and music programs?

    Why on earth would a kid roll out of bed in the morning to go to scripted classes that have as their goal the improvement of test scores?

  4. el said

    on August 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I missed this on first reading:

    “Yet the survey of 516 truants in grades 8 through 12 — which took place in June in malls in 23 American cities”

    How is a survey done in a mall *possibly* going to be a thorough, complete survey collecting reasons for truancy and school absences? OF COURSE that will skew the reported reasons.

    • CarolineSF replied

      on August 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      I was a high school mom in SFUSD from 2005-May 2012, and the messages urging kids to get to school are pretty ubiquitous. So I have to question the implication that nobody gives a crap. Parents are being threatened with legal action even if they take their kids out for too many college visits.

      “They also said they would respond if adults showed some interest. If their parents, teachers, or famous actors, musicians, and athletes encouraged them to go to school, they said they would be more likely to attend — hence, the Whoopi effect.”

      • el replied

        on August 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        I too am highly skeptical.

        I think there is truth in the meat of it, which is that they would benefit from an individual person going out of their way to welcome them back into school each day and make it a happy place to be, genuine pleasure and welcome; a sense that someone else needs them and misses them.

        (True story: probably pulling the student out of class on the first day returning from an absence in order to scold the student…. maybe not so clever, eh?)

        Celebrities have been saying “Stay in School, Kids!” for decades. I’m not thinking Whoopi is going to have a strong effect beyond what we’ve seen.

  5. Susan Frey said

    on August 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    This report is not a scientific study. Its purpose is to give voice to the truants themselves. For scientific studies on this issue, see Attendance Works (http://www.attendanceworks.org/research). Of particular interest is “Truancy and Chronic Absence in Redwood City,” a study by the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities in Palo Alto, California.

    • el replied

      on August 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      Did they consider that many truants don’t hang out in malls?

      I will repeat my comment that many students will not tell you the real reason they’re not going to school, due to shame and embarrassment. Even telling them it would be anonymous is not going to change that.

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