Chronic student absenteeism infects school districts resulting in a depletion of revenue which ultimately impacts staff employment quantities, academic resources, and the overall perception that students benefit from school involvement. It becomes a major embarrassment for schools when students no longer find that law mandated school attendance is useful and eventually is perceived as a detriment to the community of students that the school serves. Schools can only benefit from the reduction of student absenteeism by determining the inflection point that will maximize their transformation efforts.
The Paterson Public School District is implementing a new strategy to reduce student absenteeism. They have decided to hire specialist to target student absenteeism. The specialist will carry a case load of fifty to sixty students. They will meet with the students and their families to determine if any additional services are needed. The part time specialist will receive pay of $17 dollars per hour resulting in an overall expense of $200,00.00 for the district.
Paterson Public Schools past efforts to reduce student absenteeism included truant officers who rounded up students and returned them to school. This method was not efficient which caused the school district to seek other alternatives. The fundamental flaw with both measures is that student motivation is not the primary vehicle to reduce student absenteeism.
It appears that Paterson seeks to reduce student absenteeism by shifting the blame from their schools to the parents and students. Therefore, they are hiring specialist to interact with the parents and students rather than delve into the many school codes that are contradictory to students and families of color.
The first challenge with their efforts is that there needs to be an admission that parents will remain reluctant to work with school officials to reduce student absenteeism. Many of the parents are economically disadvantaged products of the school district. Those who do not have a high school diploma will not enforce school attendance because their experiences with the school are the major reason why they are economically disadvantaged.
Parents who have a high school diploma will be reluctant to promote the benefit of Paterson Schools because of their present economic status. How can the school expect the parent to promote the school when they feel that the school district failed them as students too? It leads parents to differently prepare their children.
Black parents prepare their children to live in a dual cultural world that involves helping them to develop skills for adult roles such as wage earners and parenthood in addition to negotiating a dominant society that has different cultural values and judges people by their skin color or ethnic background. Blacks who live in an urban society and a society that dislikes them for the color of their skin ensure that their children do not become victims by teaching their children to approach people with caution, wariness, and a sense of distrust. In many cases, Black parents may realize that schools are agents that contribute to the racism that their children are required by law to face.
The other factors that will continue to contribute to the need to reduce student absenteeism is the perception of the students. These students witness daily how schools have contributed to the demise of their parents and the economic status of their family. It leads students to believe that schools are racist.
Researches have reported that students do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success (Stienberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992). Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them (Davidson & Lang, 1960). Children who have positive feelings regarding teachers have higher achievement levels and a reduction in behavioral challenges.
Positive racial relationships at schools and in the classroom are in many ways the prerequisites for effective learning and behavior. Students will attend school when they believe that they have a chance at enhancing their individual economic level without the barriers associated with racism. Without improving the perception that chronically absent students and their parents have regarding education, the Paterson Public School efforts to reduce student absenteeism are doomed.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
- The Raccelerate Formula App
- Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
- The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management
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~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
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~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
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~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President