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High Truancy Is The Beginning of a School’s Undoing

All functions and programs of a school are contingent upon student attendance. If the students are not present at school, it directly affects the school’s enrollment numbers; as a result, school funding from the state and local government is reduced. If the students are not present at school, larger class sizes will crop up. If larger classes exist, individualized learning; which is the most effective instructional method, will be greatly improbable.

If the students are not present at school, he or she will not able to master specific skills or gain necessary knowledge to matriculate to the next grade. If the students are not mastering the content, it is going to impact how the school performs on standardized testing. If the school does not do well on standardized testing, it is placed into underperforming categories on the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) report. If Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) is continuously unmet, the administrators, teachers, and staff members can be replaced and there could be a state takeover.

If the students are not present at school, it effects the number of teachers and para-educators that an administrator is able to hire or retain. If the students are not present at school, the overall curriculum; such as, the arts are the first programs to be cut. If the students are not present at school, it has the ability to determine salary scales of each employee of the school district.

If the student-athletes are not present at school, it impacts the sports program. If the sports program is substandard, the end product could be low school morale and low community support. If the morale and community involvement is low, parents may not want to enroll their students in the school or business support may decline.

If the students are not present at school, the school is unable to fulfill the objectives to develop individuals to be lifelong learners that are social, responsible global citizens. If there is an underclass of uneducated or undereducated individuals; crime, delinquency, and poverty will persevere.

“Playing hooky,” “skipping,” “truant,” ducking off from school” and“ skiving off” are all synonyms for truancy. Truancy is defined as a student that neglects their duty and leaves school without permission. In America, an average of ten percent of all grade level age students are absent from school daily. There is also no data held by the U.S. Department of Education on the exact number of truants. So, what is a nation to do about this grave dilemma?

Ignoring the problem does not make it disappear. First, it must define and recognize that the problem exists. Below are key terms associated with absenteeism:

Excused Absence: One in which, the student is not present at school for a short period of time. Also, the student has proper documentation upon their return. (i.e.-doctor’s note or court order)

Unexcused Absence: One in which, the student is not present at school for a short period of time. Also, the student does not have any documentation upon their return.

Chronic Absenteeism: One in which, the student is not present at school for a long period of time and/or missed ten percent or more of the overall school year. (i.e.-20+ days)

Suspension: One in which, the student is not present at school for a short period of time due to a behavioral or academic sanction by an administrator. (i.e.-1 to 10 days in-school or out-of-school)

Expulsion: One in which, the student is not present at school for an extensive period of time due to a behavioral or academic sanction by an administrator. (i.e.-up to one year)

Skipping a class period or entire days of school is an indicator that student does not value education. Often time, truancy is not a sudden event. For students and parents alike, it has been ongoing from each grade level. It is not until it reaches the secondary education level that schools begin to hone in on the dilemma. Some deem the previous statement as a myth, but it becomes critical at the secondary level, because that is when dropout rates incline. In high school social, promotion ends because students must receive credits to advance to the next grade level.

There are several types of truancy:

Blanket/Specific Lesson: Continual skipping a specific course due to content and/or instructor and leaves campus without school’s authorization

School Refusal or Phobia: A part psychological condition which the student fears school and does not attend

Post-Registration: A student comes to school, but then leaves the classroom or building

Parent Condoned: The parent(s) knowingly allows student to miss school

Psychological Absence/”Near Truancy”: The student physically attends school, but does not participate in a meaningful way

There are other factors that contribute to students becoming truants: disinterest in school curriculum, community with high crime for walkers, and students do not have reliable transportation. Furthermore, truancy is an indicator of negligence in the student home life. And, it is a reflection of the parents and student’s value of education. Parents are aware that compulsory attendance is illegal, but it is not changing the outcome. States should stiffen the laws on parents and students that are chronically absent and truant.

Schools must turn the tide on student truancy. It is a reflection of a school’s academic expectations for the students. The solution takes a multipronged approach. A school truancy reduction plan should be developed with parents, teachers, student leaders, and administration. Administration must execute clear and consistent consequences for truancy to faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders.

There have to be systems, rituals, and routines in places to deter truancy. School administrators need to assess the building to recognize the peak time that students are cutting class. Also, administrators need to station teachers, para-educators, school resources, and security officers in locations that are conductive for students to roam off campus.

Teachers and attendance officers from kindergarten through twelfth grade need to contact parents on a consistent basis. Contacting parents when any child is behaving exemplary and poorly helps to build relationships. Therefore, timely automated telephone calls and emails to parent and guardians regarding student absences. The messages should go out to multiple contact numbers and email addresses pertaining to that specific student. Letters should be sent to parents once a child has missed three days, whether the absences in excused or not.

Monitoring and reduction of hall pass usage is another key way to prevent truancy. Furthermore, the juvenile court system needs to be involved throughout the process, both proactively and reactively. Attendance officer and administrators should collect data weekly or monthly and be transparent about the data to faculty, staff, and truancy officers.

There is a strong positive correlation between high truancy and dropout rates. Oftentimes, the problem originates with behavioral problems and student sanctions. Then it builds up to truancy.

Truants have a greater probability of becoming homeless, in poverty, and experience joblessness. Furthermore, students do not have a certain skill set to attain employment due to missed school days. Also, dropouts are more likely to need public assistance and other social services than high school graduates. The majority of prison inmates have truancy has their first offense and these individuals are high school dropouts. And, over half of truants test positive for drugs and alcohol. Also, violent crimes committed by youth primarily occur during school hours. Therefore, a blind eye cannot be made about the potential detriment that can and does pervade because of truancy.

It is going to take a holistic approach to deter and ultimately end school truancy. The nation will either pay now or later for the delinquent behavior. Truancy is not only the undoing of a school; it is the undoing of a nation.

“Students, who attend class, tend to pass.” –Jackson State University

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