SF Unified, County DA and SPI launch new anti-truancy programTom Chorneau, Managing Editor
SI&A Cabinet Report
(San Francisco) -- Challenged by a stubbornly high truancy rate, especially among high school students, officials from San Francisco Unified joined Thursday with other state and local leaders in calling for renewed efforts to reduce student absenteeism.
Noting that the first day of the new term starts Monday, Superintendent Carlos Garcia said his office would be starting a new program for tracking absent students and engaging parents.
“One of the things we are doing is setting up a system so that if your child is truant, if your child is missing school, there’s a notification that goes out immediately,” said Garcia. “We don’t wait anymore, in some ways it won’t be as much fun being a child.”
Adding to the significance of the news conference held at an inner city elementary school was the presence of state schools chief Tom Torlakson, as well as San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.
Torlakson said the ideas being implemented in San Francisco could prove to be a model for the rest of the state.
“It’s smart – it will save money by bringing money into the district and saves money by reducing crime,” he noted.
But more important, Torlakson stressed, is the learning time.
“Students have to be there to learn and even the best teachers cannot help if you are not there,” he said.
San Francisco Unified has come a long way over the past four years in improving what was once one of the worst truancy records in the state – but school officials said they are still well behind where they should be.
Since 2009, the district has reported a 16 percent reduction in the number of chronically absent students as well as an 11 percent reduction in habitual absenteeism.
With those steps, Garcia and others acknowledged that there is still a lot of improvement that can be made.
Among the changes that district officials will be making in the coming year is the adoption of attendance services provided by School Innovations & Advocacy – also corporate host of Cabinet Report. The firm’s Attention2Attendance® will be used to help manage parental notifications and track classroom attendance.
Hydra Mendoza, president of the SFU Board of Education, noted that absenteeism is a challenge statewide but with the new school year there’s another opportunity.
“One of the very things about bringing our kids back is having them come the first day, the second day and so forth,” she said. “We want to make sure they are not absent during the school year.”