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  1. 1. Research. Development. Justice. Reform. 520 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York 10018 P. 646.386.3100 F. 212.397.0985 courtinnovation.org The Challenge While overall attendance rates have been improving in New York City, chronic truancy rates remain consistent: an estimated 20 percent of the city’s public school students miss at least one month of school per year. Efforts to respond to this problem have traditionally been based outside of schools, led primarily by law enforcement agencies. While these programs provide an immediate intervention for young people stopped by the police for truancy, they typically lack the capacity to provide ongoing support for the student at school. Addressing truancy requires persistent, supportive intervention on a day-to-day basis to deal with all of the challenges that keep students from coming to school and succeeding there. Stopping truancy at the middle school level is particularly critical. The start of middle school marks a major transition for young people: schools are bigger, expectations higher, and both social and academic pressures grow. Research shows that truancy rates, especially in low-income urban neighborhoods, can rise dramatically at this age. A pattern of chronic absenteeism or truancy often leads to long-term school disengagement and a higher probability of dropping out. The Response The Center for Court Innovation developed the Attendance Achievement Program by building on evidence of what works in addressing truancy and chronic absenteeism and on lessons learned from problem-solving courts. The model focuses on holding students accountable for their behavior while giving them the support and structure to be successful. The approach includes a family assessment, an individualized program plan for each student, regular formal and informal contact with students throughout the school week, and bi-weekly progress “hearings.” At each hearing, students develop short-term, achievable goals for improving not just attendance but also academic performance and behavior during the next two-week period. Staff support those goals with tutoring and classroom observation to help students catch up on assignments and develop improved study habits. Beyond better attendance and academic performance, the program helps each student develop the ability to set and achieve their own goals and become self-monitoring. Core Strategies Each participating student receives a program plan with a combination of one or more of the following interventions, based on the needs of the individual student and family: The Attendance Achievement Program The Attendance Achievement Program is a school-based truancy intervention for middle school students developed by the Center for Court Innovation to address a pressing need for better responses to truancy and chronic absenteeism. The program combines support to help participating young people overcome challenges with regular monitoring to keep students focused on reaching their goals.
  2. 2. Center for Court Innovation | Page 2 Individual conferences: Students check in with a counselor on a regular basis, from once or twice a week to every other week, depending on need. Staff check in with a parent by phone during weeks when the student does not have a progress hearing. Classroom observations: Staff talk to teachers to monitor students’ academic progress and attend classes with participants on a periodic basis to assess how they are engaging the curriculum and behaving in class. Tutoring: The program holds regular tutoring hours during lunch, recess, and after school, with a focus on building studying and time management skills and completing assignments. Students needing more extensive academic assistance are referred to tutoring programs. Progress hearings: Participating students and their guardians have progress hearings either once or twice per month, overseen and facilitated by a retired judge or other justice-system professional. At each hearing, the students set goals for attendance, academic performance, and behavior that will be reviewed during the next hearing, and track their own progress from week to week. The judge provides a sense of structure and consequence, although the mood, unlike at a formal court proceeding, is collaborative. As students begin to reach their benchmarks consistently, they earn incentives like books or movie tickets. Social service and resource referrals: As part of the initial family assessment, staff identify service needs for the student or family members to help address the root causes of the student’s truancy. Referrals may include behavioral health services, legal assistance, tutoring, and connections to extracurricular activities such as afterschool programs, clubs, classes, and volunteer opportunities. Impact The Center for Court Innovation runs the Attendance Achievement Program at the South Bronx Academy for Applied Media and the Academy of Public Relations (also in the South Bronx), supported in part by the New York City Department of Education and the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy and Chronic Absenteeism. Between 50 and 60 students participate in the program each year. During the 2012-2013 school year, participating students in both schools increased their attendance rates by an average of seven percent. For More Information Contact: Luisana Victorica 347-803-8822 lvictori@courts.state.ny.us