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.