'\ THE UNHEARD VOICES OF TRUANTS: A STUDY OF THE AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS' EARL Y INTERVENTION PROGRAM by Barbara Jean Cooper B.S., Western Illinois University, 1989 M.A., University of Colorado Denver, 1995 A dissertation submitted to the University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 2009
2009 by Barbara Jean Cooper All rights reserved.
This dissertation for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Barbara Jean Cooper has been approved Connie Fulmer ( Barbara Z
Cooper, Barbara Jean (Ph.D in Educational Leadership) THE UNHEARD VOICES OF TRUANTS: A STUDY OF THE AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS'EARL Y INTERVENTION PROGRAM Thesis directed by Dr. Dorothy Garrison-Wade ABSTRACT Student truancy is a major problem in the United States and has been rated among the top 10 school issues in the United States (Barrett, Katsiyannis, Shang, Wilson, 2007). Daily unexcused absenteeism have been reported as high as 30% in some communities, and in Aurora Public Schools alone, more than 50% of secondary school students were identified as habitually truant in 2007 (Escarcega, 2008). The number of petitioned truancy cases doubled from over 20,000 in 1987 to 40,000 in 1996 (Snyder Sickmund, 1999). Truancy is a risk factor that leads to serious juvenile delinquency and future adult issues. Truancy is the primary and best indicator that a student will become delinquent. Consequently when truancy is reduced in a community, so is daytime crime (CFFC, 2007). Ninety percent of incarcerated inmates were habitually truant during the formal schooling years. Additionally truancy has been linked to low academic achievement. We can't educate them if they fail to come to school. Unchecked truancy places students on a trajectory of problems during their life (Garry, 1997). This has major economical implications for society as truants will earn significantly less than their peers during their lifetime This mixed methods case study provides quantitative results on student attendance and achievement. The researcher also reports qualitative findings gained through
interviews when the real voices of truant students and the truancy court magistrate are heard. These voices give significance to the study. Thought provoking interviews reveal the daily, oftentimes raw, life experiences oftruant students. Further, students provide insight regarding the interventions most effective in correcting truancy. Finally a collaborative approach is explored to determine the impact of schools, courts families and communities working together to eradicate truancy. When students don't bond in school or in the community they are at greater risk of becoming delinquent ( Heilbrunn 2003). Brofenbrenner's Ecological Framework forms the theoretical basis for this study to examine various systems w hich impact a student s existence. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
DEDICA PAGE I dedicate this dissertation to my loving family who made it possible for me to complete such a humungous undertaking. To my husband Walter Sr. and my children Walter Jr., and Timera Denise, you were my daily inspiration. You fixed yourselves and me dinner, completed homework, entertained yourselves at the recreation center, and made sure things were taken care of in the house so I didn't have to worry unduly. You did these things unselfishly while I spent hours writing. Walter Sr. I thank you for being my confidante, my encouragement and most importantly my friend and strategist when I felt defeated. Walter Jr. and Timera my work is meaningless if the two of you don't strive to be all that you can be and leave this world better than you found it. To my Moma and Daddy thank you for instilling in me the desire to learn and being my daily example of excellence, commitment and dedication. I shall never forget the way you always allowed me to purchase a book whenever we went somewhere when I was a little girl. You allowed me to entertain you with what I had learned or read to you whenever I asked. This was the beginning of my love for learning. Thank you for encouraging me to be the best. You demonstrated for us the importance of honesty and integrity and a good work ethic. We were taught to be servants to others. Moma, I now understand what you meant when you wrote on every single graduation card "Strive for the top, because the bottom is full". To this day I take these words to heart and I try to be the best I can possibly be. To my brothers, Ricky, Marvin and my best friend and sister Rhonda, thank you for giving me the physical and mental toughness to endure this journey. Growing up with the three of you on the South Side of Chicago provided me with ALL the tools I needed to complete anything I set out to accomplish. My daily long distance conversations with you grounded me and helped me to persevere. Thank you for assuring that I had someone around the clock when I needed to share my burdens. To my hundreds of relatives and extended family: aunts, uncles, in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Thank you for encouraging me. We have to work together to make sure we all make education a priority for our children and ourselves. To the many teachers who taught me to love learning. I am especially thankful to my seventh and eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Barbara Patronik who contacts me to this day. Thank you for demanding excellence and for encouraging me to be the best. Sharing your world travels with me inspired me to want to experience life to the fullest.
Thank you to God and to my brother-in-law, Harry W. Cooper, Jr. for writing the song "On the Other Side of Through". I can't express how many times over the last few years I've listened to this song for encouragement. As I endured trial after trial, I turned to God for guidance. Completing this dissertation was clearly, As I wrote through the late hours of the night and into the wee hours of morning and prepared to leave for work, I put God first. He allowed me to get through each day. The following words of Harry's song provided sustenance for me to complete my Journey: On the other side of through; there's a blessing waiting for you Hold fast, hold fast, your troubles will not last, there's a blessing. What God has prepared for you, is better than what you're going through. So run this race with determination, God has prepared your destination. Don't give up, I'm telling you, there's a blessing on the other side ofthrough.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Dr. Dorothy Garrison-Wade, my advisor and mentor. You are truly the epitome ofa phenomenal woman. UCD chose the right person for 'Teacher of the Year'. I am sincerely grateful to you for believing in me. I could never have completed this arduous task without you. You would accept nothing but the best from me and you encouraged me to do things of which I didn't know I was capable. You always knew just when to push me a little harder and when to pull back and encourage. After meeting and speaking with you for the first time, I knew the Ph.D was an attainable goal. The late nights you spent reviewing the dissertation are appreciated. I look forward to joining the Academy with other scholars of your caliber. Kathy Steward and Sheri Charles. My girlfriendsyour friendship reminded me of the words to a song I learned in Kindergarten. Thank you both for all you've provided during this milestone in my life. Kathy, my high school friend, and college roommate, I never imagined you would become my editor. I appreciate the many track changes you provided and the words of encouragement you provided along the way. Thanks for being my Sheri thanks for helping me keep everything in perspective and for providing a respite when I needed a moment to get away. Thanks for being my Dr. Connie Fulmer, Dr. Gregory Diggs, and Dr. Barb Zahn. The individual and collective support you provided throughout this journey has not gone unnoticed. Your willingness to serve on my committee and provide feedback on my work are sincerely appreciated. Aurora Public Schools' students and staff. Thank you for allowing me to do my research in APS. The knowledge I gained was invaluable and will support me in my work as an educator. The Department of School Services and the Truancy Prevention and Intervention Team are to be commended for daily implementation of the Early Intervention Program. Superintendent John Barry's vision that we must make excellent attendance a priority provided the impetus for this study. My fellow educators in Denver Public Schools. Thank you for being my friends and for allowing me to serve beside you during my early years as a teacher and principal. The lessons you taught me were invaluable.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Igures ................................................................................. XlV Tables .................................................................................. xv CHAPTER 1. BACKGROUND/OVERVIEW ................................................................... 1 Statement of the Research Problem .................................................... 5 Purpose of the Research ............................................................. 11 Research Questions ..................................................................... 12 Definition of Tenns .................................................................... 13 Delimitations ........................................................................... 17 Limitations ............................................................................... 17 Significance of Study .................................................................. 18 Researcher's Perspective ............................................................ 19 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ......... '" .. ................................. '" ...... 22 ......................................... 25 ....................................................................... 29 ................................ 30 ................................................................ 32 .............................................. 33 Building Relationships with Students: ................................................ 36 Educational Failure ............................................................ 37 Social Burdens of Truancy .................................................... 39
Effective Truancy Program Components .......................................... .43 Truancy Prevention and Intervention Programs ................................ .49 Theoretical Framework ....................................................... 55 .......................................................... 57 ................................................................................ 61 ................................. 62 .......................................................................... 65 Conclusion of Literature Review ....................................................... 66 3. METHODOLOGy ..................................................................................... 67 Case Study Research .................................................................... 70 Overview of Case Study Design ......................................................... 71 Participants and Sites ................................................................... 73 .................................... ................. ..... 75 ....................................... 76 Data Collection ......................................................................... 78 ............................................................... 83 .................................................................. 84 Data Analyses ........................................................................ 85 x
Quantitative Analyses .......................................................... 87 Qualitative Analyses .............................................................. 88 Validity and Reliability ............................................................... 91 Sumary ................................................................................... 92 4. FINDINGS ................................................................................................. 94 Quantitative Findings of TRAIN Data Analysis ............................... 95 .......................................................... 100 Qualitative Findings ............................................................ 1 03 Document Review ............................................................... .1 04 ................................ 104 ........................................ 106 ........................ 1 08 ............................................... 11 ....................................... 111 ........................................... 111 Early Intervention Program Participants Sites ............................ 112 Truancy Court Magistrate Interview ......................................... 116 Student Interviews ........................................................... 121 .............................................. 122 .................................. 125 ............................................ 131
. 134 ............................... 136 ............................................. 138 Protecti ve and Risk Factors ................................................. 140 Themes Emerging from Interviews .................................................. 144 ............... 144 ............................................ 148 ............................................ 153 Response to Research Questions...................................................... 160 5. DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS ....................................... 168 Interpretation and Discussion of Findings ........................................ 169 ................................. 180 ............................................................................ 181 Recommendations ...................................................................... 183 Further Research ............................................................................... 188 Summary ................................................................................ 189
APPENDIX A. Student Interview Protocol.. .................................................................. 192 B. Student Interview ............................................................................. 193 C. Court Magistrate Interview Protocol ..................................................... 195 D. Court Magistrate Interview ................................................................... 196 E. TRAIN Database ........ '" ..................................................................... 197 F. Court Monitoring Documents ................................................................ 216 G. APS Documents ................................................................................. 220 H. Court Documents ............................................................................. 223 CARB Documents ................................................................................. 225 J. Attendance Policies ............................................................................ 239 K. Truancy Intervention Graphic ................................................................ 248 REFERENCES .......................................................................................................... 249
LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1.1 DATA RELATIONSHIPS ................................................. 93 1.2 VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF STUDENTS IN THE EIP ........ 97 2.2 THIS IS A GENDER BREAKDOWN OF EIP STUDENTS ......... 97 2.3 CHANGES IN ATTENDANCE ........................................ .1 02 2.4 EXCESSIVE ABSENCE INTERVENTIONS ........................ 110
LIST OF TABLES Table 2.! Lifetime savings .......................................................................................... 42 2.2 Truancy reduction program .......................................................................... 54 3.1 Data collection strategies .............................................................................. 80 3.2 Data collection methods and analysis ........................................................... 86 4.1 Reasons students give for skipping school ................................................... 98 4.2 Challenges faced by students in the EIP ..................................................... 100 4.3 Pre and post attendance .............................................................................. 101 4.4 Pre and post achievement ........................................................................... 102 4.5 Student participant profiles ......................................................................... 142 4.6 Supporting court magistrate interview quotes ............................................ 165 5.! Truancy programs aligned with the Early Intervention Program ............... 179 5.2 EIP student recommendations and suggestions .......................................... !84 xv
CHAPTER I Background/Overview When you skip school it's like an addiction, you skip it so much that you're like what's the point of going, even if you want to be in the school. After a while it's not fun anymore, you're sitting there watching TV-all the stuff that was fun when you're skipping gets a little boring. And you're like: I shoulda been in school, it would be more fun. There's this block that keeps you from going. A kid knows their life is going down the drain. But if you don't like your school and then skip so much that you're embarrassed to go back, then you just don't go. I used to cut and smoke, and drink, and read. I think I was depressed. (Cushman, 2003 pp. 166-167) This quote is an excerpt from Cushman 2003, These are words from the mouth of a student who exhibited attendance issues. Truancy is an issue that prevents students from accessing education. Education provides opportunities for youth to positively impact their future and to make worthwhile contributions to society. The importance of regular school attendance is stressed across the nation as a means for students to gain a high school diploma. Unfortunately not all students are access the benefits of education on a daily basis. Due to the recent federal requirement to report attendance, there is not an abundance of national truancy data, although some urban areas report thousands of unexcused absences each day (Dekalb, 1999). School attendance is a significant area of concern in most English speaking educational systems
(Davies Lee, 2006). The United States, Canada, England, and Australia all continue to tackle the issue of students who exhibit poor school attendance patterns. Daily absenteeism rates are reported as high as 30% in some communities, and in Colorado alone, more than 70,000 students are reported out of school each day (Rohrman, 1992). Student truancy is rated among the top 10 issues facing schools in the United States (Barrett, Katsiyannis, Shang, Wilson, 2007). Other nations struggle with truancy as well. Approximately 50,000 students are reported absent each day in England (Davies Lee, 2006). Truancy is referenced as the first in a series of steps that places students on a trajectory that consists ofa lifetime of problems (Garry, 1997). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reports that the number of petitioned truancy cases increased 92% from over 20,000 in 1987 to 40,000 in 1996 (Snyder Sickmund, 1999). The OJJDP identifies truancy as a risk factor that leads to serious juvenile delinquency. Unchecked truancy must be seen as an early sign of future issues for youth (Snyder Sickmund, 1999). Denver Public Schools (DPS) provides data that exemplifies the prevalence of truancy in major cities within the United States. Between 2002 and 2005 almost 20% of all students in DPS had at least 10 unexcused absences (Heilbrunn, 2003). Truancy reached its highest peak in ninth grade and then tapered off. This decrease is generally believed to be attributed to students reaching the mandatory attendance age and exercising their right to drop out of 2
school, further compounding the problem and demonstrating the need for early intervention (MacGillivary Mann-Erickson, 2006). Student attendance has been the focus of the National Center for School Engagement (NCSE), a Colorado based organization. This organization is committed to finding solutions that will encourage students to attend school daily. Their work acknowledges the importance of engagement and attachment in schools. NCSE recently provided data which indicated 16,000 total years of instructional time had been lost to unexcused student absences in Colorado during the 2005-2006 school years alone (Heilbrunn Seeley, 2008). These startling statistics demonstrate the sense of urgency for educators and policy makers to tackle the issue of truancy. Student absenteeism and tardiness is frequently identified by school principals as being among the most significant educational problems in the United States (Heaviside, Rowland, Williams, Farris, 1998). The time spent away from school has serious implications and leads to major learning gaps for the student (Levin-Epstein, 2002). In 1852, the state of Massachusetts was first to enact an attendance law and all states implemented school attendance laws by 1918 (LlerasMuney, 2002). Under Colorado School Law, enacted in 1963, all students of compulsory attendance age, 7-16, must enroll in school and attend on a daily basis. Not only are students expected to enroll, but they are required to attend consistently. 3
Students who do not attend are considered truant from school (Colorado Department of Education, 2006). Colorado school law defines habitually truant students as individuals who have four unexcused absences in a month and 10 unexcused absences within a school year (Colorado Department of Education, 2006). This criterion varies minimally from state to state. Sanctions are created in the judicial system for students and parents who fail to comply with mandatory attendance laws; however, parents are ultimately responsible for the attendance of school-aged children (Colorado Department of Education, 2006). The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation which require schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress (Losen, 2004) based on standardized test performance poses significant implications for the future of students, schools and communities. Truant students impact test scores because they are counted in school totals. In many instances truant youth have been dropped from school rolls to minimize the possibility of the school being named a low performing school (Gotbaum, 2002). Attendance is one of the established benchmarks for schools to make Adequately Yearly Progress (A YP). This new law forces schools to place more emphasis on student attendance while encouraging a national perspective on truancy. In 2005-2006, all state educational agencies were required to report individual school truancy rates to the US Department of Education (Finn, 2006).
School districts and communities across the country are scrambling to implement Truancy Reduction Programs to aid in minimizing the numbers of students categorized as truant in an effort to provide a quality education to all students and to avoid being sanctioned (NCLS, 2001). The OJJDP awards communities grants for creating comprehensive truancy reduction programs that addresses services to support truants and families, fosters systemic efforts targeted at change, includes evaluation tools, and promotes awareness programs that intervene with truant youths (McDonald Frey, 1999). Statement of the Research Problem Although truancy is identified as an issue of national significance, school districts are continuously plagued with addressing this issue locally in ways that might have a lasting impact. School principals rate absenteeism and tardiness as two of the worst problems in their schools (Fiore, Curtin, Hammer, 1997). Solutions are being sought to combat this issue. Unfortunately, some individuals believe time and energy are wasted encouraging truant youth to attend school, particularly at the secondary level. Some believe that these students require resources that are oftentimes unavailable and that valuable time is taken away from students who embrace the opportunity to attend school daily (Lavinder, 2008). Society cannot afford to adopt this attitude. Startling statistics demand we focus on this matter. Of the 85 juveniles convicted of murder in New York State 5
between 1978 and 1986,57.6% had been truant from school at sometime during their schooling (Burgess, 1992). Truancy has major implications for society. Truant students will lack the preparation for entering into the work place, dooming them to a life of unemployment and poverty (Barth, 1984; Carlson, Clark, Nerad, Taylor, 1993; McMillan Reed, 1994; Rohnnann, 1992; Zigler, Taussig, Black, 1992). One of the problems associated with truancy is the propensity for truant students to drop out of school. Students who drop out of school are likely to end up requiring public assistance due to their inability to gain employment (Buitelaar, Van Andel, Duyx, Van Strien, 1994). Studies consistently demonstrate that high school dropouts have been absent from school more than their peers starting as early as first grade (Alexander, Entwisle, Horsey, 1997; Kaplan, Peck Kaplan, 1995). School failure has been attributed to low attendance (Kearney, 2001). Students are unable to maximize learning opportunities when they don't attend school regularly. Truancy has a direct influence on the future of our youth and costs taxpayers thousands of dollars. One truant, who eventually drops out of school, will cost the public more than $200,000 over his or her lifetime (Vernez, Krop, Rydell, 1999). There is a definite link to habitual absenteeism from school and dropping out of high school (Ekstrom, Goertz, Pollack, Rock, 1986; Garry, 1997; Gleason Dynarski, 2002; Mensch Kandel, 1988). is 6
imperative that truancy becomes a major focus for schools and communities. In addition to dooming students to a lifetime of failure, there are numerous reasons why we must combat the issue oftruancy. Four of the most disturbing concerns of truancy are: (a) the link to juvenile crime and delinquency (Bell, Rosen, Dynlacht 1994; Catalano, Loeber McKinney, 1999; Van Petegem, 1994 ); (b) the substantial cost to society and truants (Eddy Reid, 2001); (c) the preponderance of truant students who are not achieving academically due to the large numbers of school days missed; and (d) the deleterious effects of dropping out of school (Alexander, Entwisle, Horsey, et al; Kaplan Peck, Kaplan, et aI., 1995). These areas will be explored further in the literature review. Many truancy reduction programs have been implemented to address the needs of truant students. Among these programs are Project Respect, Project Helping Our Students Transcend Successfully (HOSTS), Project PACT, and Families and Schools Together (FAST) (Reimer Dimock, 1999). These programs have been identified as model programs promising programs, or emerging programs. Model programs are those which have proven success evidenced by best practices. These programs have the necessary components for replication Promising programs have shown moderate degrees of success, but have not yet demonstrated all of the criteria for a model program. Emerging programs are those which have had some success in other disciplines and are 7
being adapted to address truancy prevention and intervention (Reimer Dimock, 2005). The FAST program exists to foster relationships between schools and families. Two community based partners, usually mental health corporations, are paired with one elementary school. These agencies provide extensive services to students and families. Program goals for FAST are aimed at creating trusting networks, encouraging parent engagement, and increasing school readiness (Reimer Dimock, 2005). This program supports the contention that involving parents in schools improves academic achievement and increases the chance that students will finish school (McDonald Frey, 1999; McNeal, 1999). Mentoring programs are used as an incentive to encourage students to be engaged in school. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America pairs caring volunteer adults with students. The adults foster positive relationships with students by creating opportunities and participating in activities that the students enjoy (Dimock Reimer, 2005). This program is proven to positively impact student behavior. Students who are paired with a mentor also demonstrate improved decision making and attachment in school (Dukes & Stein, 2001). One of the more promising programs is the Project Respect truancy model, initiated in Pueblo, Colorado under the direction of Truancy Court Judge Dennis Maes and Truancy Court Magistrate Rebecca Moss. This truancy reduction program is designed to address truant students when they first meet 8
the criteria for being declared habitually truant. This model is geared at correcting attendance issues before the problem reaches unmanageable levels (Moss, 2008). Although Project Respect has a court and community component, students and families are the primary focus and court is always a last resort to enforce attendance. Reimer and Dimock (2005) state, "Project Respect uses family support practices to meet the academic and mental health needs of students facing truancy, suspension, or expulsion" (p.16). The community family advocate tries to intervene and put structures into place in order to eliminate the need for students to stand before the Court Magistrate (Moss, 2008). The Project Respect Model is built around 15 community advocates whose primary responsibility is to work with families to address attendance and behavior problems. The overarching goal ofthis program is to alleviate truancy issues. Under this model, student absences were cut by 50%, standardized scores improved, and 45% ofthe students successfully completed the program (Moss, 2008). In 2006, Aurora Public Schools (APS) district hired a new superintendent, John Barry. Upon reviewing the data, the superintendent identified truancy as "the elephant in the room" and immediately created a sense of urgency around student attendance. Barry's 2008 mantra became, "We can't 9
teach them if we can't reach them". Over one-half of the district's 6,000 secondary school students are identified as habitually truant, 4 or more absences within a month and 10 or more absences within a school tenn (Escarcega, 2008). This appalling number brought all key stakeholders to the table with a sense of urgency. The school district tried many strategies to decrease the number of truant students. The leadership team created a new district mission--to graduate every student with the opportunity to go to college without remediation. Ideally the district's mission leads to the achievement of a diploma. Unfortunately the leadership team soon realized this goal would be harder to attain for habitually truant students. Hence, the Keeping Kids in School (KKIS) truancy campaign was born and the Early Intervention Program was established to comprehensively address habitual truancy (Barry, 2008). One of the first steps taken by Aurora Public Schools was the creation of a truancy prevention and intervention office that was given the task of creating a model truancy reduction program. This model entailed mobilizing district personnel to put structures in place to allow them to address the prevailing issue of student truancy. Many model truancy reduction programs were studied and support was solicited through the National Center for School Engagement and the Adams County Truancy Consortium. The conversations held were around best practices for truancy reduction. 10
The Pueblo Truancy Reduction Model was adapted in Aurora Public Schools because the district found it to be the most appropriate model to meet the needs of APS students identified as habitually truant. This model was chosen because of the collaborative approach to keeping children in school and the focus placed on building positive relationships with students. Utilizing school, students, family, community and courts provide the most comprehensive method for addressing the many challenges of truancy. Court Magistrate Rebecca Moss was reassigned to work for the 18th Judicial Courts in Arapahoe County provides her with opportunities to help APS build the Early Intervention Program. Conversations are held with Chief Judge William Sylvester regarding establishing a collaborative approach to addressing truant youth for Arapahoe County. Studying the Truancy Reduction Program in Aurora Public Schools provides insight into the lives of truant students and the factors prevalent in the decisions that these children and families make regarding school attendance. Purpose of the Research The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a comprehensive truancy reduction program in an urban school setting. The program has multiple layers which address the issues of truancy. Primarily this case study examines the interventions implemented under the Aurora Public Schools Early Intervention Program (EIP). This case study detennines ifthere is any impact on student attendance and achievement and if the collaborative approach makes a difference in truancy reduction.
Both positive and punitive measures are used to address student truancy. Although an expedited court process is explored, more focus is placed on positive outcomes for students and families through the court magistrate. Additionally every effort is made to proactively address truancy prior to mandating students to attend truancy court. The Early Intervention Program works to create an environment where appropriate behaviors are reinforced and problem behaviors are discouraged (Homer, Sugai, Todd, Lewis-Palmer, 2005). Research Questions The researcher is interested in evaluating the effectiveness of the expedited court process which is one strategy among many implemented in the Early Intervention Program. This study determines if early intervention leads to improved attendance and achievement for students who have been identified as truant. Several research questions are considered in this study. This study seeks to answer the questions identified below. 1 What effect does individualized support have on student attendance and achievement? 2 What interventions are successful in increasing students' attendance from the student's perspective? 3. What effect does a collaborative approach to truancy have on student attendance and achievement from the stakeholders' perspectives? 12
Definition of Terms A strategy utilizing the court and schools to work with truant youth at the lowest possible level of truancy identification. Truancy is dealt with in court when the student is first identified as truant instead of seeking court assistance after the student has developed oftentimes irreversible patterns of truant behavior (Moss, 2008). An individual who has four unexcused absences in a month and 10 unexcused absences within a school year (Colorado School Law, 2006). In the United States, there are laws in every state that govern us in this area. Students must attend school beginning at a certain age and must remain in school through a certain age (Colorado School Law, 2006). This is the title ofthe Aurora Public Schools' truancy reduction program. A person who works with the student and family after a student has been placed in court for truancy. The TS will interact with students on a daily basis to discuss attendance, school performance, and other celebrations or concerns. The attendance program being implemented in ESC School District I to address truancy. \3
Colorado Fonnula: Although a national fonnula does not exist, states are required to calculate truancy. The fonnula used by Colorado for this purpose follows (Krueger, 2004). Student Total Days Attended school. Student Total Excused Absence Days Student Total Unexcused Absence Days = Student Total Days Possible Student who is identified as having an unexcused absence from Refers to students in middle and high schools which encompasses grades 6-12. Theoretical and Conceptual Framework Truancy is a systemic issue and one that deals with multiple dimensions. I recently had an opportunity to attend a truancy court case. I listened as the court magistrate worked with a student to identify the true causes of truant behavior. Initially the student stated one reason for her truant behavior, "I'm having problems getting up in the morning." After deliberate prodding and clarifying, it was detennined that there were additional causes for the student's lack of attendance in school. The child had been a victim of sexual assault, had issues with the custodial parent, and she lacked appropriate clothing and supplies for school. The court magistrate ordered multiple interventions and several agencies became involved in assisting the student with her attendance. The magistrate requested that social services conduct a home visit
to look at the home environment. The truancy specialist was asked to visit weekly with the student and report any additional attendance issues. Other resources were shared with the parent to ensure that the student would have adequate clothing and food. Finally, a juvenile assessment was ordered to detennine if mental health issues existed. The aforementioned case provides an example of the multidimensionality of the truancy issue. Magistrate Moss (2008) insists that we must look at the whole child in combating truancy. We must employ strategies and implement programs that allow us to tackle the issues at school and in the home. Before begiIming to detennine the role of a truancy reduction program, the underlying theoretical concepts around community school relationships, delinquency, academic achievement, and student attendance must be reviewed. In order to identify and understand optimal outcomes for truant students, this study utilizes Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model of Child Development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Brofenbrenner Morris, 1998; Broffenbrenner; 2004). This ecological theory takes a sociocultural view of development and encompasses five systems. Microsystems consist of the smallest setting where an individual resides, such as home, school, or neighborhood. Mesosystems are the relationships or interactions that occur between the various microsystems An example of a meso system is a student having difficulty in school as a result of parental issues.
Exosystems are the social settings that influence immediate context. A truant student impacted by a parent's job situation illustrates the role of an exosystem. The parent might be unable to get the child to and from school on time. Both systems are impacted as a result of the job experience. Macrosystems deal with the cultural ideologies, customs, and attitudes held by individuals. An individual's beliefs playa major role in the development of individuals. If parents don t value education, chances are this will impact the child in school. Chronosystems are the unavoidable events that occur throughout a person's life. More specifically, they refer to the changes in persons or environments over time (Bronfenbrenner, 1990). Life changing events such as death or divorce impact individuals differently during critical periods of development (Berk 2000) The ecological theory lends itself well to conceptualize and discuss the complexities of truancy. As described in the before mentioned case, truancy must be viewed as part of a larger system. Truancy is a symptom of greater issues in a child s life (Moss 2008) Brofenbrenner's theory allows us to look at the causes of truancy from multiple perspectives. It is imperative to look at a child's development from a sociocultural view in order to begin to mitigate the complexities of the problem. (Addison 1992).
Delimitations Truancy exists for students at all levels of schooling and across socioeconomic status, and in various educational settings including: elementary, private and parochial schools. This study focuses only on truant students in a four public school settings, one elementary, one middle school and two high schools. The study is limited as it will view truancy only in these settings. This study does not claim that Aurora Public School's Early Intervention Program would be successful in all public elementary, middle and high school settings. This study focuses on the school sites benefiting from school district funding allocated to support the district's truancy reduction program. Limitations This study presents challenges because it is dependent upon participation and cooperation of students, families, community, and the court system. Student truancy is a very complicated issue and consistent enforcement and participation is important in order to maximize results. Although APS is taking a collaborative approach to address this issue, it is imperative that all parties willingly work with families to address this complicated challenge. Another limitation of the study is my role in Aurora Public Schools as the Director of School Services. The truancy program has a coordinator, but I have oversight of the program. I am interested in working with the employees under this program to ensure that they have the necessary tools to be effective at
truancy reduction. Although I have oversight of the department, I am not directly involved in the evaluation of any of the participants in the study. Many of the interventions and strategies implemented will require ongoing partnerships with community and mental health professionals assigned to work with students and families. Ensuring ongoing participation of all participants in the project poses some challenges. Although this study views a snapshot of student data, it would be beneficial to observe progress over time and create accountability measures to evaluate the program quarterly. This study might not be generalizable to other popUlations. Significance of Study Empirical research is limited in this area as extensive studies have not been conducted on truancy reduction programs that focus on the students' and court magistrate perspective. Although there have been many approaches utilized to combat the ills of truancy, gaps exist in the literature on substantive evaluations of truancy initiatives. Aurora Public Schools employs a unique approach to combat this issue. This study is significant because to date there are very few programs being implemented which focus on a collaborative/relational approach among student, family, community and the court system in addressing the issue of truancy (Heilbrunn, 2003). The primary goal of this study is to add to the knowledge base regarding the factors that contribute to truancy and to determine the effectiveness of the
truancy reduction program. The desired outcome of this study is to inform the work of educators, mental health workers, and court officials who work with truant youth as part of their professional responsibilities. Ideally, this research will provide information to enhance schools' ability to provide the necessary structures for truant students. Researcher's Perspective Truancy has become a very personal challenge for me. I worked as a principal for 9 years and I have often felt helpless in dealing with issues of truancy. I concur with other principals who list truancy in the top 10 problems faced by educators. Truancy poses many challenges and educators must view it from all lenses in order to create effective strategies that meet the unique needs of every student and family. Family, school, court, community, and law enforcement must all work collaboratively in order to produce the most favorable results in decreasing truancy. I have always embodied the beliefthat all children can learn and that educators have a major responsibility to ensure the best education for all children. Unfortunately, truancy is in direct conflict with my belief. Students must be in school in order to access the benefits education. When I became a principal, it became apparent that one of the greatest challenges working against students was the lack of positive adult relationships and role models in the lives of so many students for whom we were responsible.
Students frequently got lost in the trenches because no one seemed to care whether or not they were present in school. In my second year as principal, I coined the year as "the year of relationships." I created goals that encouraged staff members to develop positive relationships with students. We started the year out determining benchmarks that would guide our work for the year. In August 1998, prior to school starting, our school went into the neighborhood. Every school staff member went out into the community to meet our 700 parents and students. We knocked on doors to greet our students and parents We presented them with school supplies and a letter welcoming them back to a wonderful school year. This experience proved to be one ofthe most rewarding of my career. The school staff gained a better understanding of our students' living conditions' and could better understand some of the challenges we would face throughout the school year. Both our attendance and the relationships with students and parents improved since we had made a personal connection. I have continued my hunger to develop positive relationships for students in my current position as the Director of School Services in Aurora Public Schools. My department is responsible for truancy prevention and intervention efforts. We have created an entire truancy reduction model that allows us to deal with the challenges of attendance on a daily basis. In January 2008, I had an
opportunity to do home visits with the superintendent's leadership team and the Board of Education. Our goal was to encourage truant youth to return to school. The stories we heard as we went from door to door haunt me to this moment. The reality of a much bigger issue emerged for me during these visits. I listened to 16-year-old children tell me how they were waiting for their birthday to drop out of school. One young lady indicated that she would tum 16 in two days and had no intentions of ever returning to school. Another young student indicated his refusal to return to school was due to not having the necessary school supplies. I asked one student if she would return to school the next day. She indicated that she didn't know she could return after missing so many days. I bring some bias to this study, as I have the responsibility of directing the work of the coordinator of truancy intervention and prevention, in my role as Director of School Services in Aurora Public Schools. I do not have a supervisory role over the schools that participate in the Early Intervention Program. An additional bias is the experiences I have gained in monitoring attendance over the past year. I sincerely care for all students. I believe our schools are lacking in identifying and implementing structures to ensure success for all truant students. I would be able to objectively review and analyze the data for this study. Multiple research methods and data sources will be employed to ensure objectivity in this study. 21
CHAPTER II LITERA TURE REVIEW What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. (Dewey, 1969 p.7) Every student deserves the opportunity to access and receive a quality education. The implications of not attaining such are far too great to entertain. Investing in education and making it a priority is the joint responsibility of all citizens Unfortunately many students are not being educated due to truancy issues. As a result these students grow up and are unable to function as contributing citizens in the United States. The purpose of this literature review is to explore the truancy issue as it relates to families, students, school officials and the courts. is important to examine the literature that already exists in order to understand the implications for creating next steps to address truancy. In an effort to understand what exists and identify the role of the APS Truancy Reduction Program in relation to the literature, there are specific areas studied in this chapter. Many students struggle with being successful in school on a daily basis. The literature provides multiple examples of students who struggle with regular attendance. Jones (2004) shares Jessica's story. Jessica is an example of a student who 22
does not attend school on a daily basis, struggles academically and has no adult connections at her school. Olivia has experienced failure in two classes after her absences catch up with her due to several absences from school, including a family trip to Mexico. She is interested in doing better and catching up but finds it difficult to do so with the cultural and social issues that come with being a female Hispanic student (Jones, 2004). Finally, Blake is a male student who desires to go to college and has decided to take the easy route. Blake is taking easy classes to get his grades up. Additionally, he has decided to improve his attendance in order to earn a parking pass (Jones, p. 3). identified by the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children (2002) provide encouragement for the researcher to take action and address truancy. Heilbrunn (2003) states 97% percent of expelled youth are chronically truant in the year preceding expulsion. Additionally, 97% of youth in detention for delinquent acts had also been truant from school during the school year in which the student was placed in youth corrections (Heilbrunn, 2003). Eighty percent of dropouts were chronically truant in the past year. Seventy percent of suspended youth had been chronically truant in the 6 months prior to suspension. Twenty-five percent of all expelled youth spend time in youth corrections within 1 year of being expelled. Eighty two percent of adult prison inmates dropped out of high school. Finally, 70% of adult offenders have a history of youth offending (Colorado Foundation, 2002). 23
It is important to share these statistics in order to paint a picture regarding the grim future for students who don't attend school on a regular basis, further justifying why we must invest in the future. This literature review focuses on the following: (a) compulsory attendance laws, (b) truancy rates, (c) delinquent behavior and truancy, (d) family risk factors, (e) school and community factors, (t) individual and peer factors, (g) building relationships with truants, (h) the impact of educational failure, social burdens of truancy, components of truancy programs, and (k) model programs for truancy. Currently a large body of literature exists on the topic of student truancy Gaps exist in viewing truancy from the perspective of the stakeholders including students, parents, community, and courts. This literature review addresses areas specifically related to student truancy including: compulsory attendance laws, the parent's role in reducing truancy, social burdens created by truancy, academic achievement and truancy, delinquent behavior associated with truancy, the communities' role in combating truancy, and finally research studies addressing truancy. An extensive discussion will provide information about truancy reduction models. This provides an understanding of what currently exists and identifies what is lacking in the way of effective truancy reduction programs. The research is relatively extensive on the problems of truancy. Unfortunately, very little literature or studies exists that 24
tackle this issue through learning gained from impacted students, parents, and communities (Buitelaar, Van Andel, Duyx, Van Strien, 1994; Moss, 2008). Recently the researcher had an opportunity to engage a truant student in a conversation regarding his lack of attendance. Sadly, the student indicated no one at school had asked him to attend, nor cared whether he attended or not. This simple insight leads to a multitude of institutional issues that must be addressed in order to ensure that students have the necessary support to become engaged in school. This student lacks the maturity and perhaps the understanding to navigate the educational system to return to school. Children need advocates when they lack adult role models to navigate the bureaucratic systems to obtain an education. A review of the literature was conducted on truancy and provides the justification for this study. Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is the principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide 25
it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal tenns. (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954 pp.483, 493) Compulsory attendance must be reviewed in order to understand the historical context and rationale behind mandating attendance in school. Truancy became a mission for schools and communities when the Child Literacy Law of 1642 was passed (Ensign, 1969). This was the first law enacted to encourage school attendance and was an attempt on the part of legislators to encourage school attendance for all students. One of the issues experienced under this mandatory participation in school was the lack of legislation to enforce school attendance. Although instructions were provided to enforce this mandatory expectation, little was done to those who chose not to follow through with school attendance. The premise behind the Child Literacy Law was to provide every child the opportunity to learn to read (Ensign, 1969). Communities failing to meet the tenns ofthe Child Literacy Law were penalized with a fine. In spite of the establishment of laws requiring children to go to school many chose not to comply. As a result, the Province Charter was established in 1692. This mandatory attendance law encouraged society to embrace the law as it was intended. Stricter consequences opened the eyes of many; however, many continued to violate the law through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After the civil war, educating students became the responsibility of the states. 26
Modem times and enforcement of compulsory attendance led to increased accountability and the stakes were higher. By 1890, 27 states had attendance laws and all 48 states had laws by 1918 (Urban Wagoner, 2000). There are two very different opinions regarding compulsory attendance. Unfortunately, school attendance was not a priority for poorer individuals, farmers, and city dwellers. These groups relied on their children for survival and couldn't afford to send them to school. More prosperous citizens supported schooling because they felt the migrants and immigrants needed to be off the streets and receiving an education. The first compulsory attendance law was passed in 1852 in Massachusetts (Urban Wagoner, 2000). This law had little to do with schooling of children and more to do with the use of children for labor. State legislators started equating education with a more advanced state in the future. The goal was to produce literate, productive citizens in order to preserve our democratic society (Nyangoni, 1992). Enforcing compulsory attendance proved to be a major challenge. Absenteeism and truancy were issues from the inception ofthis law and in the 1930's more than two-thirds of the students were absent (Dougherty, 1999) In 1985, The Education Act of 1944 provided very specific guidance to parents regarding school attendance. For the first time in history, parents were being held responsible for their child's attendance at school (Le Riche, 1985). 27
Clear guidelines and protocols became necessary to enforce student attendance. Guidelines were provided as guidance for school districts to develop attendance policies (Blyth Milner, 1999). Current compulsory attendance laws require children to start school between the ages of 5-8 and remain until age 16-18 (Ensign, 1969). The wide ranges within the laws of the various states make it extremely difficult to compare attendance (National Center for School Engagement, 2007). The No Child Left Behind Act of2001 mandates that schools collect truancy data. Schools are scrambling to ensure guidelines are met under this stringent new legislation. Schools must now pay attention to all students, as they are all factored into the equations to determine a school's success or lack thereof. Schools are, for the first time, being identified as failing if specifications for adequate yearly progress are not met. Truancy is an issue that continues to be ranked high on the list of major problems encountered in our schools (Nyangoni, 1992) Unfortunately the collection of data under NeLB is not enough to grasp the magnitude of truancy problems. Although states are collecting data, there is no federal accountability for what is collected. Additionally, a national definition oftruancy does not exist. Formulas vary from state to state and not all states currently have formulas (NCSE, 2007). Schools are scrambling to implement strategies that encourage regular student attendance. There is concern that one of the strategies might include 28
encouraging children to drop out of school since there is increased accountability when having students in attendance. The NCSE (2007), states "A student who has withdrawn cannot be absent" (p. 2). Reviewing the history of compulsory attendance laws provides a foundation for the original purpose of attendance laws. In California, the truancy rate is a calculation based on the number of students classified as truant pursuant to Education Code Section 48260 during the school year. The number oftruants is compared to total students enrolled in the California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) as of October count. A school with an enrollment of 500 students will have a 50% truancy rate if it has 250 students classified as truant within a school year (California Department of Education, 2008). Truancy is rated as one of the most serious problems facing educators today. Unfortunately, defining the extent of the truancy problem is part of the issue. Problems with attendance level manifests in the classroom with inaccurate attendance records. This problem continues at the school district level when accurate reporting is not in place. Finally, at the state and federal levels, there is very little accountability for reporting truancy. According to Gullatt Lemoine (1997) the average daily absentee rate in high school is 7%. Large cities report rates higher than 7%. This infonnation can be compared to counting apples to 29
oranges as every state has a different understanding and method for calculating truancy (NCSE, 2007) Truancy has far reaching implications as many entities are involved including families, communities, students and schools. The Los Angeles County Office of Education indicates that absenteeism and truancy from school is an indicator of subsequent delinquent behavior (Garry, 1997). When students are not in school, they are left with few positive choices and frequently engage in antisocial behavior. The literature identifies a high proportion of truant students as being involved often in serious crimes. Truancy is known as a gateway crime, or stepping stone for more serious offenses (Garry, 1997). The life choices of truants place them on a path for more serious social professional, and economical consequences such as unemployment and dependency on welfare. During the 1980's and 1990's, truancy reached unheard of peaks. The average daily attendance dropped in schools and absentee rates were up to 7% according to Education Week (1977). Many cases where children have been detained or committed violent crimes are forcing society to look at factors that contribute to delinquency. Criminal trends associated with skipping school have been described as alarming. Thomas (2008) indicates 80% of individuals incarcerated in the United States were former truants A study of St. Louis Missouri inmates which spanned 30 years, found that 89% of inmates had long histories of truant 30
behavior (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2001). Ninety percent of youth serving time for delinquent acts in Colorado youth detention facilities had been truant throughout their fonnal schooling years (Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, 2002). In 1991 and 1993, a study completed in Dade County found that truancy was a common trait in 5,000 of the most serious juvenile offenders. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) fonned a study group to identify risk and protective factors of juvenile delinquency. This group identified school and community as risk (Heilbrunn, 2003). When students don't bond in school or in the community, they are at greater risk of becoming delinquent. Students who live in disadvantaged areas have greater likelihood and opportunity for participating in antisocial behavior. The literature suggests truancy is a contributing factor in delinquent behavior among youth. According to the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children truancy is the primary and best indicator that a student will become delinquent. Consequently when truancy is reduced in a community, so is daytime crime (CFFC, 2007). Truancy provides a good indicator of drug use, low grade point average, and increased sexual activity. Truants are more likely to be associated with delinquent peers (Halfors, Vevea, Iritani, Cho, Khatapoush, Saxe, 2002). Bonding with school is imperative if students are to avoid delinquency. Students are likely to bond when they achieve and do well 31
on school related tasks (Flores, 2003). Individual, peer, family, school, and community factors are all associated with childhood truancy and delinquency (Wasserman, et aI., 2003). Families have a major role in the lives of truant students and can either provide risk or protective factors for students. Factors such as income, economic status and parent's education are all related to students dropping out of school (Wasserman, et aI., 2003). Parents are responsible for ensuring adequate supervision for students. When this doesn't occur, students become at-risk of participating in delinquent behavior. Derzon and Lipsey (2000) attribute many areas of family as contributors to student delinquency. Among these factors are inadequate supports to raise children, chaotic home life, child neglect, family violence divorce, parental psychopathology, familial antisocial behaviors, teenage parenthood, family structure and family size. Many delinquent students live in families that have more than one of the listed factors making it difficult for students to have the necessary supports required to be successful. Inability to effectively parent is identified as the most powerful link to delinquent behavior (Hawkins, et. ai, 1998). Children who have conduct problems often have parents who reinforce negative behaviors and have large levels of child and parent issues and very little monitoring of inappropriate behavior (Wasserman, et aI, 1996). Students are less likely to develop antisocial 32
behaviors if they have parents who embrace conventional parenting skills (Hirschi, 1969). Communities throughout the United States are linking truancy to youthful delinquent activity including drugs and alcohol, criminal offenses, and gang activity (Baker et al., 2001; Rohrman, 1992). Gang activity represents the greatest representation of deviant behavior attributed to offending (Wasserman et al., 2003). The Aurora Police Department recently shared statistics regarding the decrease in daytime crime as a result ofthe school's efforts to keep kids in school. Crime was down in all of the areas around the school and the numbers of students becoming victims of crime also decreased (Aurora Police Department, 2007). This sentiment is echoed in cities throughout the United States, justifying the need for programs that encourage students to attend school. It is imperative that society provides positive alternatives for students to prevent keep students from leaning towards gang involvement. Gang involvement provides opportunities for students to become active participants in extremely delinquent behavior (Wasserman et aI., 2003). Society is impacted when students become linked with gangs. Gangs seek out wayward students and unfortunately these students seek attention from anyone who will listen. Early antisocial behavior is the most commonly used predictor of later delinquency in youth (Farrington, 1990). Emotional factors and hyperactivity 33
also contribute to later antisocial behaviors. Children are unable to manage negative emotions for various reasons. Socialization is impacted by school teachers, peer groups, community members, and parents. Children who don't learn to express and manage emotions such as anger are likely to have a greater risk for delinquency (Wassennan et aI., 2003; Farrington, 1998). Bell, Rosen, and Dynlacht (1994) concluded that truancy is an early warning signal of antisocial behavior. Unchecked, this behavior leads to additional negative outcomes for the student including sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drug use and dropping out of school. Hyperactivity is a risk factor for later delinquent behavior in youth (Wassennan et aI., 2003; Farrington et aI., 1990; Lynam, 1997). Studies have been done on hyperactive kindergarten students. Findings indicate that these students had a great chance of being delinquent at age 10 (Tremblay et ai., 1994). Lynam (1997) linked hyperactive behavior with delinquency when it was coupled with either oppositional behavior or physical aggressiveness. Truants are likely to exhibit antisocial behavior as early as three years of age. These students begin early on, not connecting well in meeting society's standards for acceptable behavior. Many believe that early antisocial behavior is the best predictor of juvenile delinquency in later life (Wassennan et. ai, 2003). In 1994, Haapasalo and Tremblay indicated that aggressive behavior in kindergarteners was the only predicator of later involvement in crimes involving 34
property. Many studies confinn that students who are arrested before age 13 are likely to be involved in major crimes by age 18 (Patterson, Crosby, Vuchinich, 1992). Children rated by their parents as having troublesome behavior at age three demonstrated antisocial behavior later in their lives (White et aI., 1990). Delinquent students often associate with peers who also demonstrate deviant and unacceptable behavior patterns. This tendency is known as co offending and in some cases leads to the joining of gangs and other anti-social groups (Shaw McKay, 1931). Gangs provide the greatest opportunities for delinquent youth to co-offend. The Denver Youth Survey and the Rochester Youth Development Study have both added to the body of literature that indicates the influence gangs have on the delinquent behavior of young members (Howell, 1998). Patterns of association with delinquent peers have been observed according to data from the National Youth Survey of juveniles between 11 and 17. Students tend to progressively associate with more serious delinquent peers (Elliott Menard, 1996; Keenan et ai, 1997). Delinquent students are usually rejected by their peer groups because of their aggressive behaviors. Peer rejection has recently been added as a factor for delinquency (Coie et aI., 1995). The only students delinquents have to befriend are other youth who exhibit anti-social behavior. In an Iowa study, findings indicated that students who participated in disruptive behavior and kept 35
company with delinquents were most likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system (Simons et aI., 1994). Wassennan et al. (2003) identifies peer rejection as leading to antisocial behavior for two reasons. Peer rejection makes students feel suspicious of other people and encourages more hostile responses. Secondly, when children are rejected, their options for positive friendships are minimized. Factors that lead to a student participating in more serious offenses are antisocial behavior, peer rejection that results from the inappropriate behavior, and the propensity to associate with other delinquents (Wassennan et al.,2003). Building Relationships with Students Some of the more successful truancy efforts have been those which encourage adults to develop relationships with students exhibiting truant behaviors. These relationships are aimed at making students feel welcome and develop a sense of attachment with school, thereby improving on time attendance each day (Dekalb, 1999). Relationships are established by having caring adults meet daily with students. The adults are responsible for conducting home visits, completing assessments, and having daily and weekly communication with families of students with excessive absences. Pytel (2007) believes that one caring relationship with an adult at school give students a better chance of success and a more positive outlook about setting goals for life. 36
Many schools have implemented dropout prevention programs aimed at providing students with a caring adult. In many of the programs that encourage school attendance, counseling was a primary component (Dynarski Gleason, 1998). In such programs, students were linked with counselors either in school or in the community. These services were aimed at helping students move beyond the many barriers in their lives. The programs were based on small counselor-to-student ratios to provide a more personal and secure setting for students. Programs aimed at helping students within the school setting provide many benefits, but the programs that provide the greatest benefit are those that focus on the entire community. Targeting whole cities and neighborhoods with comprehensive initiatives have a greater chance of success in bringing about change in student participation in school (Dynarski et ai., 1998). Supplemental programs such as those providing tutoring and enrichment have very little impact on student outcomes. More successful programs are intensive and provide many services for students. Counseling alone is not enough. Counseling combined with smaller school settings provides greater support for students (Adelman Rubenstein, 1994). Educational Failure Truants create social problems when they don't attend school regularly and educational failure is the ultimate outcome. When students are absent from 37
school early on, this is a prediction ofthe likelihood that the student will not finish (Epstein Sheldon, 2002). These students become disenfranchised from school very early and fail to see the benefits of regular school attendance (Finn, 2006). Attending school regularly is linked to better perfonnance on tests of achievement and better grades (Eastwood, 1989). Adults who didn't attend school regularly as youth experience many social issues. These individuals are likely to struggle with literacy and numeracy skills (Rohnnan, 1992). This illiteracy and lack of regard for school is oftentimes passed on to offspring, creating a second generation lacking in school readiness. Poverty, social alienation, and lack of ability to participate politically are among other social ills that exist for individuals who fail to attain a high school diploma (Rohnnan, 1993). School perfonnance is consistently linked with poor school attendance and the likelihood for truancy. Dynarski and Gleason (1998) believe academic failure in school is a predictor of nonattendance and ultimately dropping out of school. Poor academic perfonnance refers to measures such as truancy, low grades, low test scores, and having discipline problems (NCSE, 2007; Ekstrom et al. 1986). Seeley and Shockley (1995) state by all indications, expelled truant students are disproportionately disciplined for issues related to defiance, fighting, and substance abuse. At all grade levels, there are very limited assessments conducted with habitually truant students to analyze their needs and 38
intervene before behavior issues lead to expulsion. Best practices stress that it is never appropriate to suspend or expel a student for being truant (Seeley Shockley, 1995). In Aurora Public Schools during the 2006-2007 school years, of students expelled, 81 % of elementary school students, 85% of middle school students and 89% of high school students had also been habitually truant prior to their expUlsion (Lavinder, 2008). Although students are never expelled for truancy issues, other behavioral issues generally lead to their expulsion. This information demonstrates that when truancy is left unchecked, the likelihood of increasingly deviant behaviors exists. Research identifies truancy as the only significant predictor of expulsion (Huizinga, Loeber Thornberry, 2000). School districts will benefit in addressing the truancy problem by tackling the underlying reasons behind this behavior. More studies are needed that get to the root of the problem. There is a need to hear the perspective of the truant student, family, and school districts. This knowledge will allow for the creation of programs which focus on the root causes of truant behavior and identify the reasons truant students are not at school. Social Burdens of Truancy Truancy leads to many social burdens for students, families, and society. The Colorado Foundation for Families and Children (2002) indicates that truant 39
students are not likely to be prepared for work in modem society. Unskilled workers are able to work in factories and perform tasks that require minimal education. These jobs are few and far between in the United States. The problems associated with truant students are viewed from an economic and social standpoint. Burdens created by truancy are limitless but some of the major problems are readily identifiable. Truant students are more likely to require public assistance in adulthood. Many criminals begin their life of socially unacceptable behavior with truancy. Truancy provides a red flag that other issues and challenges exist in the home. Students who attend school successfully and graduate from high school make a million dollars more in income than a high school dropout (Vernez et aI., 1999). Males who drop out of high school earn 75% less than their counterparts who complete high school; females earn 60% less. Additionally, the rate of unemployment for high school dropouts is 20% higher than graduates (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). Vernez et al. (1999) has completed extensive work with the Rand Corporation. This group created estimates to quantify the cost of truancy. School dropouts can avoid lower earnings, unemployment, participation in the justice system, and welfare if they recognize and actively work towards reaping the benefits of attending school. They place themselves at a disadvantage for becoming self supporting and productive citizens. The United 40
States Department of Educational Statistics indicates that dropouts are two and a halftimes more likely to require public assistance (Dynarski Gleason, 1999). Dynarski and Gleason (1999) indicate that habitual truant students perfonn lower than their counterparts in school. These students also have the highest drop out rates. These two areas combined make it nearly impossible for these students to lead lives where they are able to contribute positively to society. The financial implications of truancy are great and lead to a minimally educated work force, greater likelihood for the necessity of social services, and increases in daytime crime rates (Baker et ai, 2001). Struggling school districts are also impacted by habitually truant students as funding is allotted based on school attendance. Table 2.1 demonstrates the impact of truancy over the span of an individual's lifetime. This table depicts positive outcomes of government savings when students graduate from high school. Upon reviewing this infonnation of real time earnings, the truancy issue becomes more real, allowing one to quantify the implications for non-attendance in school. 41
Table 2.1 Lifetime savings Lifetime Savings in Public Social Programs, Increases in Tax Revenues Increases in Disposable Income Associated with High School Graduation Versus Dropping Out By Gender and Ethnicity in 1997 Dollars, Discounted for Current Value Men White Black Asian Mexican Other Hispanic Women White Black Asian Mexican Other Hispanic Total 72,274 203,329 145,541 112,333 129,966 60,663 126,283 100,961 90,876 123,942 % Due to Criminal Justice Savings 48% 70% 56% 60% 60% 4% 9% 10% 7% 4% Additional Total Tax Government Revenues Savings Earned 115,812 188,086 93,859 297,188 110,848 256,390 89,856 202,189 94,427 224,393 129,695 190,359 98,169 224,452 134,441 235,402 102,484 193,360 104,921 228,863 The earning potential is significantly reduced for students who don't After-Tax Income 223,647 176,130 208,906 170,406 176,517 254,007 187,149 255,631 194,738 199,749 attend school and graduate. These students are likely to need public assistance to meet their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. They will tap into welfare programs such as Medicaid, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This type of ongoing assistance creates a huge burden to the taxpayer and to society as a whole. 42
Attaining a high school diploma has many benefits, but reducing the likelihood of criminal behavior has greater consequences for truants and to society as a whole. The criminal justice savings are significant and account for forty-eight to seventy percent of social program savings (Vemez et aI., 1999). For these reasons, one cannot place a price tag on efforts aimed at encouraging students to attend and finish school. Juveniles who are truant from school create a financial burden to society. When students aren't in school, they increase the likelihood of being involved in a crime, or becoming a victim of criminal behavior. Studies link truancy with the beginning of a lifetime of socially unacceptable behavior and deviancy (Keenan et aI., 1995). Truancy provides a red flag for many issues including challenges that exist within the home. Effective Truancy Program Components There are many components that successful truancy models have in common. The Department of Education, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Center for School Engagement, National Dropout Prevention CenterlNetwork, and Washington State Institute for Public Policy have all identified factors that contribute to positive outcomes in reducing truancy for children and families (McDonald Frey, 1999; Reimer Dimock, 2005). According to Reimer et al. (2005), the models that have been most effective in reducing truancy have the following critical components: (a) 43
collaboration, (b) family involvement, (c) comprehensive approach, (d) use of incentives and sanctions, (e) operate in a supportive context, and (f) include a rigorous evaluation and assessment. Collaboration among parents, students, community, and court is an essential element of a truancy reduction program (Heilbrunn, 2003). In order for collaboration to occur, stakeholders must be identified. This is not an easy task, but it must occur to ensure that the right people are involved in addressing truancy in a community (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Effective programs have a clearly defined mission, and outcomes that everyone supports are shared throughout the process. Most programs requesting funding must now include planning which involves the community. McDonald and Frey (1999) stress the importance of collaboration and list it as a required component for initial and ongoing funding in the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program and the Title V Delinquency Prevention monies. Parents are children's' first teachers and have a crucial role in the development of children. Family involvement is critical to prevention and intervention oftruancy, and programs encouraging such involvement are more successful (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Parental involvement is vital in reducing drop out rates, truancy, and improving academic achievement (Heilbrunn, 2003; McDonald Frey, 1999; McNeal, 1995). Parent involvement includes a huge scope of participation in the education of a student. The National Center for 44
School Engagement has listed parental involvement as an effective strategy for reducing truancy (Heilbrunn, 2003). National standards for effective family involvement have been created by the National Parent-Teacher Association (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Two-way communication, strengthening parenting skills, creating welcoming schools, providing resources, and creating meaningful partnerships are among the criteria for effective family involvement. Truancy reduction programs that encourage family involvement understand the family's role in educating children. Truancy reduction programs should be comprehensive in approach. Applying a "one shoe fits all" strategy is not effective in dealing with the complex challenges of truancy. Students provide many reasons for not attending school including personal problems, low academic achievement, school environment, and family issues. Reimer and Dimock (2005) state ,"a truancy program may be called upon to help a family obtain counseling, advocate for a family to receive entitlement benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (T ANF), negotiate a new school schedule, figure out transportation solutions, and other more traditional social work activities such as evaluation and counseling services" (p. 19). Truancy reduction programs utilize a continuum of best practices consisting of sanctions and incentives to encourage appropriate school attendance. Both playa role in truancy reduction when an effective balance 45
exists (Baker et aI., 2001). Court Magistrate Moss from the 18th Judicial Court in Arapahoe County indicates the importance of addressing truancy utilizing both incentives and sanctions and incorporates these in working with students and families daily (Moss, 2008). Effective incentives are geared at changing behaviors and should be of interest to the student. Students must understand, in advance, the parameters for earning incentives, and consistent standards should be applied in implementation. Additionally, incentives should be consistent with the student's achievement (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Incentives are provided to reward students for good attendance. Sanctions are more punitive in nature and are usually similar to what is used for other undesirable behavior. These might include consequences such as detention, suspension or expulsion from school, petition to juvenile court, and taking away privileges such as driving (Baker et aI., 2001). The sanctions for truancy are most effective when they are provided immediately following the inappropriate behavior. Children must understand the behavior which has led to the consequence. Truant students should not receive suspensions or expulsions for nonattendance at school. Even young children understand the inappropriateness of the consequence. The OJJDP supports sanctions that encourage accountability (Reimer Dimock, 2005). In optimal situations the sanctions are flexible enough to address the situation attached to the behavior in question, and provide 46
progressive discipline which ultimately leads to reduction of truancy (Griffin, 1999). Successful truancy reduction programs are built in a supportive context. These programs allow for the creation of sustainable efforts that yield positive results for children. Reimer and Dimock (2005) identify supportive context as building an environment that engages students and family. This also extends to agencies, neighborhoods, school policies, and procedures. Effective programs impact these realities in ways that increases the success of the program. These areas must all operate collaboratively in order to greatly impact the challenges faced in all programs. Programs receiving funds from the OJJPD must engage the public extensively. These programs must aim to change policy while maximizing the potential for decreasing truancy (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Truancy programs that include an assessment and evaluation tool demonstrate responsible behavior and a commitment to outcomes and accountability. Investments are generally limited to successful practices and program models which have clearly demonstrated success based on data. Although large scale evaluation on truancy is scarce, the National Center for School Engagement is evaluating two studies. One of the studies is taking place in Colorado and the second study is the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Project through the OJJDP (Heilbrunn, 2003). 47
Although detailed literature exists for school refusal, very little exists to specifically address the issue of student truancy and the benefits of a case management model (Galloway, 1985). Truancy is one of the serious issues that school officials must deal with on a daily basis. Secondary principals' rate truancy as one of their greatest concerns and is one of the greatest predictors of juvenile delinquency (Nyangoni, 1992). Many approaches have been implemented in school districts across the United States to decrease the number of truant students. School districts have tried multiple approaches. Combating truancy requires that school officials be willing to implement strategies that encourage students to attend school. Many schools have tackled this program by offering incentives and awards for good attendance. These incentives include drawings, parties, and other extrinsic rewards to encourage students to attend school (Baker, 2001). These efforts have proven successful for many students and fonn the basis for approaches for encouraging students to attend school. Combating truancy is a relatively new concept; however, several truancy reduction programs exist that have been successful. Many truancy reduction programs have been implemented to address the needs of truant students. Table 2.2 illustrates several truancy reduction efforts identified as model programs, promising programs or emerging programs, all aimed at curbing truancy (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Model programs are those which 48
have proven success and have the necessary components for replication. Promising programs show some degree of success but have not yet met all of the guidelines of a model program. Finally, emerging programs are those which have been successful in other arenas and are being adapted to address truancy prevention and intervention (Reimer Dimock, 2005). Truancy Prevention and Intervention Programs Several programs have been identified by the OJJDP as being model truancy reduction programs. This section will share in detail some of the programs that have been successful in reducing truancy. These programs are research based and are evaluated externally using criteria for exemplary programs (Smink Heilbrunn, 2005). Programs explored address truancy strategies, provide alternatives for students, incorporate distance learning opportunities, include school based programs, court based programs, and other truancy reduction programs (Smink Heilbrunn, 2005). Many of these interventions combine one or more components for effectiveness. For example, most court based programs rely on collaborative partnerships with the school and community (Baker Steven, 2005). School based truancy reduction programs have grown tremendously. Reimer and Dimock (2005) have identified effective programs. Currently over 100 programs have been logged into the National Center for School Engagement database. This is an online resource where schools and organizations willingly 49
share information about their successes and challenges with truancy reduction (Smink et ai., 2005). Additionally, the National Dropout Prevention Center maintains a database that identifies various promising programs for keeping students in school. Lehr, Johnson, Bremer, Cosio, and Thompson (2004) have created an extensive resource that assists in creating dropout prevention programs. Most of the issues addressed in this manual are attendance related (Lehr et aI., 2004). Truancy prevention programs must have school collaboration and must begin with schools. There are specific practices effective in school based truancy programs. Case managers provide needed support for truancy reduction efforts in schools. The case managers are key components in working with students and families to alleviate truancy. These individuals put a lot of effort into gaining the trust of students and parents (Baker et aI., 2005). They serve as a conduit between the family and school. Extensive effort is put forth to minimize and ultimately remove all barriers causing students to be truant. The case managers make any necessary referrals to community agencies and encourage parents to follow through on all appointments (Moss, 2008). Many effective programs utilize attendance boards that meet to review student attendance (Smink Heilbrunn, 2005). These are collaborative groups of school representatives, family, and community members who work together to discuss individual student issues. These meetings are designed to identify the 50
root causes of truancy and create a plan to address the issues. Students and parents are asked to sign a contract. The group agrees to reconvene after the student has had an opportunity to improve. Everyone leaves the meeting with clear understandings of verbal and written expectations (Moss, 2008). The ultimate goal of the attendance review board is to provide interventions in order to minimize the number of students who would otherwise be sent to court for sanctions. Alternative schools provide another option for providing service for students who are not being successful in traditional school settings as a result of truancy issues. Most alternative settings provide smaller class sizes to provide more individualized instruction for students who have not been successful in larger high school settings (Aron, 2003; Richards, 2003). Most alternative settings serve at-risk, suspended, or expelled students. Over 11,000 alternative schools provided services for over 600,000 students during 2000-2001 (Aron, 2003). Most school districts have alternative settings for students who have not been successful in school. Distance learning and electronic learning opportunities provide additional options for students who aren't successful in school. The National Center for Education Statistics looked at 15,000 school districts to learn about their options for distance education (Smink Heilbrunn, 2005). Over one-half of all public school districts provide opportunities for students to take advantage
of online education. Eighty-one percent of school administrators felt it was important to provide additional opportunities for specific groups of students. Almost all districts intend to extend online opportunities for students (Setzer & Lewis, 2005). Long (2004) shares a list by state of public cyberschool offerings in the United States. There were over 103 cyberschools in 2004 (Long, 2004). These schools offer alternatives to students who learn best by interacting with a computer. Many parents are taking advantage of this option for their student. Students who have struggled traditionally in school are being successful in cyberschools (Long, 2004). There are many school based truancy programs. This section will review several of the programs in greater detail in order to capture the essence of what the literature provides regarding existing programs. Programs will be reported as school based programs, court based programs, or community based programs. In Los Angeles County, the establishment of a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) is a mandated strategy for addressing truancy issues (Smink et aI., 2005). Parents expect to receive assistance through SARB to address student attendance issues. Los Angeles County has an advisory board that is responsible for oversight of all school based SARBS. This group provides support and training to all SARBS to ensure effective implementation and oversight of the process. The ultimate goal of SARB is to identify attendance 52
issues and create a plan that provides support and allows students to achieve success. The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) Attendance Improvement and Truancy Reduction Program (2008) assists parents and students with identifying strategies to address truancy issues. The goal of this program is to create partnerships between parents and schools to determine strategies for working with truant youth. Students are identified and monitored until the truancy issue is addressed and the student is achieving success at school. This collaborative effort has been very successful in Dallas and schools see improvement in students upon completion of program participation (DISD, 2008). Table 2.2 provides a snapshot of some of the more promising programs; this listing also includes the program's focus area. 53
Table 2.2 Truancy reduction programs FOCUS AREA Families and Schools Together Mediation www.wcer.wisc.edU/fast (FAST) Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mentoring www.bbbsa.org America Communities in Schools Collaboration www.cisnet.org Keeping Kids in School Collaboration www.city ofgreer.org/Departments/ Police -SuspensionCamp.aspx Project Respect Family Needs & www.Queblo60.kI2.co.us Family Attachment Conflict Solutions, Inc. Truancy www.conflictsolutions.org National Youth Court Center Mediation www.youthcourt.net Denial of Driving Privilege as Leadership www.riag.state.ri.us Sanction Parent Arrest as Sanction Collaborationwww.coj.netlDeQartments/ Court State+ Attomeys+Office+/ About+the+Officelhtm At-Risk Youth Programs Collaborationwww.metrokc.gov Court 12 'National Network CollaborationEpstein & Sheldon, 2002 Court 54
Table 2.2, cont. Partnership Schools' at John Hopkins University ACT (Abolish Chronic Truancy) Now Communities In Schools Fulton County Truancy Intervention Project Jacksonville United Against Truancy Project Helping Hand School Attendance Demonstration Project Family and Community Collaboration Attendance Collaboration Court Collaboration Collaboration Collaboration Theoretical Framework Baker, Simon, Nugent, 2001 Cantelon LeBoeuf, 1997 Mongulescu & Segal, 2002 National Center for School Engagement Garry, 1996 Jones, Harris, & Finnegan, 2002 National Center for School Engagement In order to better understand the complicated issue of truancy and identify desired outcomes for students and families, a theoretical framework has been identified to frame this complex problem. Truancy is much more than just a school challenge and must be viewed from a broader perspective. This study looks at the various influences that contribute to a student becoming truant. Often this multifaceted problem entails a combination of the home environment, school, neighborhood, and community. This study employs the Broffenbrenner 55
(1979) ecological model of human development. In order to understand children, we must look at the immediate environment as well as the larger environment (Broffenbrenner, 1990). Broffenbrenner's theory has major pedagogical ramifications and indicates specific roles for educators. The educational system must understand the deficiencies that exist in the home. This knowledge allows the schools to implement interventions that will maximize learning opportunities (Berk, 2000). Building caring and stable secondary relationships is essential for student success. Ideally, the primary long-term relationships should be fostered in the home with someone who is in a child's immediate influence. Our educational systems are not designed to provide the functions of a primary caregiver for students. The role is too complex and when school officials attempt to be this person, they help society remain in denial of the real issues (Brofenbrenner, 1990). Understanding the schools role in supporting students is imperative to achieving maximum effectiveness. The school's role is to nurture and accept families by supporting the primary relationship (Brofenbrenner, 1990). This is especially important as we think about truant behavior. is important that we ease work and family conflict by creating laws, policies, and procedures that allow us to support families, while holding them responsible for the care of their children (Henderson, 1995). We benefit greatly when our policies encourage and 56
support the role that parents play in the growth, nurturing and development of children. Additionally, when we all adopt attitudes and beliefs that foster work done by parents, community, family, legislators, and mentors, we create a better society for all (Brofenbrenner, 1990; Anyon, 2005). This model focuses on learning about human beings in their environment--their ecology of development. The qualitative methods employed in this study are also supportive of Broffenbrenner's approach to learning about individuals. We learn best about individuals by observing them in their ecological environment. The environment consists of five distinct areas under this ecological model: (a) microsystem, (b) mesosystem, (c) exosystem, (d) macro system and (e) chronosystem. These components will be discussed in greater detail in the next section. The microsystem is anyone setting in which a student spends time with individuals (Addison, 1992). This is the layer of the model that directly impacts the child. This study looks at the microsystems in relationship to the implication for habitually truant students. The microsystem of a student might consist ofthe home environment and any individuals that make up the family (Berk, 2000). This system includes the immediate relationships and communications a student has within the environment. The school is also considered a microsystem inclusive of the student, classmates, and teachers. Addison (1992) states other 57
micro systems might include the neighborhood, the daycare, or any entity where the child spends significant time. In researching micro systems, generally only one level is studied. In observations of the family, we would view parental interaction with the child and how this might impact truant behavior. Parent's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors all influence the child. The same is true for the child's interactions and the influence on parental attitude and behavior. The researcher is also interested in how the interaction of family and school influence the child's behavior. The family unit is a very important microsystem in the development of children of all ages. Unpredictable and unstable families are among the most destructive factors in the development of children (Broffenbrenner, 1990; Addison, 1992). is imperative that children have opportunities to interact with positive adult models. If these relationships fail to exist in the microsystem, the child is unable to reach maximum potential in other environments identified in the ecological theory (Brofenbrenner, 1990). When children fail to receive the love, attention, and affinnations needed from caring adults, they will look for this attention in less appropriate places. This is especially prevalent in adolescence and is demonstrated in anti-social behavior, lack of self-control, and very little self-direction (Addison, 1992). The family micro system is explored throughout the study as an important element in 58
addressing truancy. The family also plays a crucial role in curbing truant behavior when the necessary supports and interventions are provided. Mesosytems refer to the links or connections between the various settings a child must navigate (Berk, 2000). These connections may have either a positive or negative impact on the development of a child. School and family form a meso system for children. This connection is critical in the development ofthe child because ofthe amount of time children spend in school. Broffenbrenner (1990) shares 5 propositions that illustrate how positive relationships gained at home and school contribute to positive development for children. Ongoing mutual primary relationships created in the home are extremely important in the development of a child. These bonds manifest at school when children see this attribute present in the mesosystem and this allows the child to grow positively in this new environment. Initial positive relationships allow children to move into more complex interactions while learning new skills. Children must see interchanges between the home and school. This is the interconnectedness that is stressed in mesosystems. Ultimately public policies must support these relationships and allow them to bloom. Everyone must embrace this work that is so important in the development of children and adults (Addison, 1992; Henderson, 1995). The ecological theory states that if parts of 59
the microsystem breaks down, the student become equipped to be successful in the mesosystem. This breakdown is manifested in inappropriate and sometimes oppositional behavior (Broffenbrenner, 1990). Students are forced to deal with broken mesosystems on a daily basis. Twenty-five percent of white children in the United States lived with only one parent in 1999. This figure is 55% for African-American children (Dean Huitt, 1999). Another startling statistic is the number of children who live in households with annual incomes below poverty and receive free and reduced lunch; this number is roughly 20% among white children. Again this number is doubled for African-American and Latino children. These families are often extremely stretched and parents are unable to spend quality time with the children due to astronomical work hours in order for them to make ends meet. This breakdown is occurring at the mesosystemic level and has major implications in the creation of the primary relationships vital to the development of children (Dean et aI., 1999). Lewis and Morris (1998) share five necessities for the positive development of children: (a) establishing relationships with adults, (b) safe home environment, (c) good health and readiness for the future, (d) ability to get a job after high school, and (e) ability to give back to the community. The community can playa vital role in ensuring that these basic needs are met. 60
Students do not directly function in the exosystem layer of the ecological theory. This system however, has major ramifications for the student and impacts someone from the student's microsystem (Berk, 2000). The consequences of a hectic work schedule are an example of an exosystem impacting a student. The child cannot control the work and does not have the job, but might feel the negative forces of the parent having to work extremely chaotic or long work hours. In this manner, the parent's job interacts with both the child's micro system and meso system. Society plays a huge role in assisting in the positive development of children through the work that can be done at the exosystem layer. Although students do not interact directly in the exosystem, this is the place where the community can be instrumental in ensuring that the necessary conversations are happening to create structures for success to benefit all children. The exosystem provides opportunities for conversations that ensure communities are child centered, and recognizes the importance of experiences that positively impact child development (Bronfenbrenner, 2004). Henderson (1995) shares concerns presented by Bronfenbrenner around the deficit model which is the system utilized to provide public support to families in need. This model does not encourage independence for families and instead encourages families to appear more helpless, making it impossible for
parents to find the strength to overcome obstacles that keeps the family impoverished (Henderson, 1995; Anyon, 2005). These parents are exhausted from the systems through which they must weave to provide basic necessities for their struggling families. The exosystem level of this model allows society to do something about these unfortunate situations. Family friendly legislation, and community and financial resources should be created that demonstrate value for family. Changing the workday hours, a societal custom is one way society could demonstrate concern for family and child development. Society would benefit greatly if it lobbies for economic and political policies that foster support for parents and encourage positive growth and development for children. Broffenbrenner (1990) believes that public policies have not been very supportive of the family, thus causing a ripple effect that impacts the development of the children. The macrosystem is the outer most level of a child's environment in the ecological model. The macrosytem deals with the ideals and ways we organize social institutions within the subculture. This layer consists of intangibles such as beliefs, values, customs, and the laws that govern (Berk, 2000). This is the hardest area to change. What happens at the macro system creates a ripple effect into all of the other layers ofthis model. One big change in the macrosystem (fuel prices) impacts the exosytem (parent's struggle to pay for gas and can't get to work), and ultimately impacts a child's 62
mesosytem and microsystem. First lady of the United States, Michelle Obama shares the importance of focusing on families. Lightfoot, 2009 states "Transforming a country's policies so they support families won't be an easy task. President Obama's policies will focus on helping women and children become more economically stable, balance the demands of family and career, and help foster healthy families (Lightfoot, 2009). Cultural beliefs create the greatest challenges in the mesosystem layer. Unfortunately, the dominant culture creates conflict and negatively impacts the macro system when cultural disapproval for minority cultures is apparent. This makes it difficult for change to occur and for positive change to happen for children. This disapproval of minority cultures also has the ability to create identity crises as children develop (Seifert, 1999). The macro system level is the area of the ecological model with the greatest potential for change. Social changes have impacted the healthy psychological development of families. This is true in both developed and third world countries (Broffenbrenner, 1990). The chaos created in children, youth, and families have been a result of the disruptive trends over the last four decades. Families struggle with performing its role as expected. Pearson (1983) discusses the rude and inappropriate behavior of youth. This is evidenced in the increase in youth delinquency, crime and violence. Each generation seems to get worse (Pearson, 1983). 63
Anyon (2005) provides excellent examples of various macro systems at work. One of the most influential macro systems deals with economic policies. These policies make it difficult for individuals in poverty to achieve success. Minimum wage is well below poverty levels and underprivileged individuals in inner-cities are unable to compete in the job force. These individuals are minimally trained and very few jobs exist in urban areas. Further, very few laws contribute to decreasing the discrimination minorities experience economically. Most of the policies perpetuate inner-city poverty where predominantly minority populations reside. The macro systems make it difficult for underprivileged parents to make a decent life for children. Most ofthese parents must work long hours, often working two jobs, just to provide minimally for a family. These parents are oftentimes too exhausted to fight for their children's rights and they do not have the ability to effectively maneuver the many systems that make up their environment. The issues created by macrosystems complicate life for individuals who live in poverty. Everyday becomes a game of survival; providing food, shelter and safety become the primary goals for the parents. This severely impacts family life. Broffenbrenner (1990) shares the impact our policies have on families and the development of children. Anyon (2005) discusses the debilitating effect of poverty on a parent's outlook ofK-12 education. Parents 64
who must constantly battle the system are further beat down by the treatment they receive by the government, schools, and hospitals. They are looked down upon and lack the skills necessary to hold better educated individuals accountable for rude and insidious behavior (Anyon, 2005). Friedman (2005) in epitomizes the importance of globalization in the macrosystem. Communities are impacted by ecological issues, global events, and offshore competition. These events have major implications for local school funding and family life. Once again this is a reminder of the importance of creating social and economic policies that continue to focus on children and families while addressing issues of globalization. The chronosystem is the final system of the ecological model and references events, transitions, and experiences that happen in a person's life. The effect these experiences have on an individual depends on the timing and the period of development for an individual. Elements within this system are categorized as external or internal. External events could consist of the death of a parent, birth of a sibling, or parent's divorce. The way children react to these events depends on the environment, but they can all have devastating impact. Internal events are the psychological changes a child experiences such as getting older or dealing with peer pressure (Berk, 2000). These events can impact 65
children in many ways dependent upon their interaction with the various systems of the ecological model. Ultimately the biological influences and environmental factors impact the development and growth of a child within the various systems. Conclusion of Literature Review This literature review identifies the prevalence of truancy and many of the problems associated with this educational challenge. The Brofenbrenner (] 990) theoretical framework clearly demonstrates the complexity of the problem and the necessity of viewing truancy through the multiple lenses in which students interact on a daily basis. This framework forms the foundation for this study and will allow the researcher to maximize understanding of the various dimensions of student life exemplified in the (a) microsystem, (b) mesosystem, (c) exosystem, (d) macro system and (e) chronosystem. These components will be discussed throughout this study. 66
CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY This study views the role that a collaborative Truancy Reduction Program (TRP) has on students labeled as habitually truant. The researcher is interested in detennining if there is an impact to students. The areas examined in this study are student attendance and achievement, truancy interventions, and a collaborative approach among all stakeholders. This is a Case Study of the Early Intervention Program in Aurora Public Schools with a mixed methods design. Case Study is employed as the tool for evaluating the truancy reduction program. This chapter presents the rationale for using the case study design and the selected methods. Additionally, this chapter discusses the implementation of mixed methods as a data collection tool. Finally, a description of the participants and site, data collection methods, data analysis, and research reliability and validity are discussed. Research Design and Rationale Qualitative and quantitative methods are utilized in this study. A mixed methods triangulated research approach is appropriate as the researcher is interested in gaining insight on truancy from the studies' participants (Borg, Gall Gall, 1996). Triangulated qualitative data consist of individual interviews, review of existing data and document review. Additionally, the researcher views 67
quantitative data to detennine if relationships exist between the intervention and student progress. Mixed methods allow the researcher to create a strong study around disciplined inquiry (Cronbach Suppes, 1969; Cronbach, 1982). Incorporating qualitative and quantitative techniques allows the researcher to thoughtfully answer the research questions and gain insight into the underlying causes of the TRP's effectiveness (Lin Erickson, 1986). Kirk Miller (1986) indicates that qualitative research is an approach to social science research that allows the researcher to observe and talk with the participants in their environment. Merriam (1998) indicates that qualitative studies focus most on the process rather than the outcomes. The researcher is interested in gaining an understanding of the various components that comprise the EIP and for this reason, qualitative research methods is the predominant method as it allows the researcher to view the program from the participants' view and discover themes and relationships (Borg, Gall Gall, 1996; Merriam, 1988; Posavac Carey, 1997). The contributions to the body of knowledge around the subject are greater as well as a result oflearning from the participants' experiences with the truancy reduction program The researcher is interested in hearing the views, thoughts, and feelings of the participants, as this allows for more in-depth understanding of the programs' components. Common themes are identified as infonnation is sought regarding program effectiveness. Qualitative methods 68
allow researchers to see first hand how individuals interact socially while seeing the event from the participants' perspective (Borg, Gall & Gall, 1996; Merriam, 1998). Qualitative research is most interested in the process rather than outcomes (Borg, Gall Gall, 1996). This study permits the researcher to examine the procedures being implemented in the truancy reduction program. The areas of interest for this study are the truancy protocols implemented in schools, the support provided to students and families, the district attendance policies, and the collaborative process between the school and Arapahoe County 18th Judicial Court process. Qualitative tools allow the researcher to review these items and learn about the program through the eyes of the participants who administer and experience the interventions daily (Posavac Carey, 1997). This study utilizes quantitative methods to collect data for achievement and attendance. The researcher reviews pre and post data to determine if achievement and attendance are improved for habitual truants after spending time in the early intervention program under the EIP. Quantitative data are used to confirm and validate any themes or relationships that emerge from the qualitative data collection (Merriam, 1998). Quantitative methods allow the researcher to determine relational patterns which infers that particular phenomena within a case are related, but does not imply causation (Borg Gall, 1996). Quantitative methods also allow 69
for breadth of description and analysis (Lin Erickson, 1986). Additionally, this method lends opportunity to use numerical data to represent the environment (Borg Gall, 1996). Although the researcher is more detached from the quantitative data collection, as this is the role of the attendance clerk, the researcher has access to the pre and post data for analysis. Case Study Research Case study is utilized when the researcher is interested in gaining a better understanding of involved social events (Yin, 1994). In this study real events are observed and the researcher is instrwnental in the data collection efforts. All of the processes involved in the daily truancy prevention efforts are studied. Case study allows us to better determine meaning from the participants in the program through in-depth study and analysis (Merriam, 1998). Thick rich descriptions are gained through case study research. Case studies allow understandings to develop about unusual cases while providing rich descriptions to provide supportive evidence for quantitative research such as program evaluation (Gliner Morgan, 2000). Evaluative case studies include thick descriptions ofthe experiences, an explanation of the phenomena, and judgment of the program's effectiveness (Guba Lincoln, 1981; Merriam, 1988). This study employs evaluative case study techniques as the lens for understanding the EIP in Aurora Public Schools. The outcomes of the truancy reduction interventions are unknown prior to the 70
study being completed. The themes and outcomes will emerge from the collection of the data (Posavak Carey, 1997). There are several limitations to case study research. Primarily, the data are considered to lack substance because the researcher isn't required to meet the strict guidelines and standards established by social scientist (Denscombe 1998). There are possible side effects to evaluation that the researcher must be sure to avoid. Primarily, the researcher must pay attention to unplanned effects (Chapman and Risley, 1974). Implicit values held by the evaluator are considered as well (Cook, Appleton, Connor, Shaffer, Tamkin, Weber, 1975; Bunda, 1983). Overview of Case Study Design A case study ... is a detailed examination of one setting, one single subject, one single depository of documents, or some particular event. Several theoretical perspectives and several disciplines can provide the basis for such a detailed examination. (Boggs, 1986, p.5). Case Study is used to evaluate the Early Intervention Program (EIP). Miles and Hubennan (1994) define case as "a phenomenon of some sort occurring in a bounded context. The case is, in effect, your unit of analysis." (p. 25). There are inherent structures within this technique that allows the researcher to evaluate the effectiveness of the truancy program. This collaborative approach to addressing truancy implements a multidimensional approach to 71
address the unique needs of each student. Case study allows us to learn from the participants through the employment of many data collection strategies to include interviews, field notes and document review (Merriam, 1988; Gliner Morgan, 2000). All of these techniques are employed in this case study. Although the Truancy Reduction Program is a single holistic case, several units of analysis are employed to determine the programs effectiveness. Yin (2003) refers to this as a Type 2single-case embedded design. This case study has several units of analysis which are inherent in the research questions. Although the focus is on evaluating the truancy reduction program, the analysis lends itself to also gaining invaluable information about other entities such as family, school and court functions. This Type 2 case study is evaluative in nature. Merriam (1988) shares, this type of case study allows the researcher to gather information that ultimately leads to one making a judgment. This is the ultimate outcome of evaluative case studies. Case study creates a foundation for building upon existing theories and forms a basis for additional study (Stake, 1994). The richness of the case study lies in the researcher's ability to collect data using multiple collection methods, many of which have been identified for use in this study. Merriam, 1988 describes case study as a means to take a holistic view of the situation and observe how individuals deal with specific problems. 72
Participants and Sites Aurora Public Schools (APS) is in a large community in the metropolitan Denver area, home to 89% Spanish-speaking, low-income and/or transient families. APS is the most diverse school district in the state of Colorado where students represent 96 different countries. The student population consists of the follow ethnicities: 49.6% Hispanic, 25.1 % Caucasian, 20.5% African American students, 3.9% Asian and 0.9% Native American as well as 39% English language learners speaking 93 different languages (Barry, 2008). Fifty-four percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Absentee rates generally increase with rates of student poverty as measured by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (Finlay, 2006). APS families often need community support in the form of financial assistance, childcare, clothing, food, transportation, medical and dental care, and mental health servlCes. The participants in this study are from Kenton Elementary School, South Middle School, and Aurora Central High School, all in the northwest quadrant of the City of Aurora and Gateway High School in the Southwest quadrant. These sites were chosen after principals had an opportunity to speak with the Coordinator of Prevention and Intervention about truancy challenges within the school. A total of thirty-nine students from the schools are chosen to participate in the Early Intervention Program. The participants in this study have all met the
guidelines identified in Colorado School law (2006) for habitually truant, 4 or more unexcused absences in a month or 10 or more unexcused absences in a year. The researcher is interested in gaining information from the participants to detennine if participation in the truancy program yields changes in their attendance and achievement. Kenton Elementary school serves students in kindergarten through grade five. This public school has a population of 603 students and 71 staff members and is located in the Northwest quadrant of the Aurora Public Schools. This large elementary school serves a diverse population of students with 86% of students being of Hispanic origin. The demographic breakout of the remaining students is 6% Black, 5% White, 1 % Asian, and 2% other. Sixty-eight percent of students at Kenton require English Language Acquisition services and 93% receive free and reduced lunch. Kenton received an accountability rating of low on the State Accountability Report. The truancy rate for Kenton during the 2006-2007 school years was 4.8%, and Average Daily attendance is 94%. Kenton made adequate yearly progress in reading and math from 2003-2006 (Escarcega, 2008). South Middle school, located in the northwest quadrant of the Aurora Public Schools serves a population of 835 public school students and 104 staff 74
members. This middle school boasts a diverse population of students with over half of the students Hispanic, 54%. The demographic breakout of the remaining students consists of26% Black, 16% White, 3% Asian, and 1% Native American. Thirty-one percent of South's students require English Language Acquisition services and 76% of students receive free and reduced lunch. South received a rating of low on the State Accountability Report. The truancy rate for South during the 2006-2007 school years was 18.3% and Average Daily attendance was 91 %. South did not make adequate yearly progress in reading and math during the 2005-2006 school years (Escarcega, 2008). Aurora Central High School is one of 4 comprehensive high schools serving 2296 students in the Northwest quadrant of Aurora Public Schools. This school serves students from diverse backgrounds. The demographics of the student population consist of 68% Hispanic, 18% African American, 11 % Anglo, and 3% Native American. Sixty-four percent of the students receive free and reduced lunch and 37% of the students are English Language Learners. The truancy rate for Aurora Central during the 2006-2007 school years was %, and Average Daily attendance is 83.25 %. Over 1,527 students had unexcused absences. The graduation rate is 62.1 %. 75
Gateway High School, located in the Southwest quadrant of Aurora Public Schools serves 1690 students in grades 9-12 as one of four comprehensive high schools in the school district. The demographic breakout of Gateway students is 7% Black, 7% White, and 1 % Asian. Thirty-five percent of the students receive free and reduced lunch and 17% of students are English Language Learners. The average daily attendance is 88.53%. Gateway has a 51 mobility rate. This makes it extremely difficult for the school to address truant students who are constantly changing residences. One hundred percent of Gateway's teachers are highly qualified and the average years of teaching experience is 12 years. This study utilizes several strategies to select subjects for the Early Intervention Program. The school attendance officer will work with the primary investigator on student selection Criteria considered include: (a) previous truancy reduction strategies implemented with the student and family, (b) number of absences, and (c) achievement to date. Students in the program will range from seven to fourteen years old and will consist of males and females from various ethnicities. Participants in the truancy reduction program are identified as being in need of intervention if a pattern of truancy exists. This pattern is evidenced by 76
school attendance records. Students who demonstrate any of the following in addition to truancy, are identified as being at greater risk and thus may receive priority for placement in the program: (a) academic deficiencies as evidenced by test scores, quarterly progress reports, and report cards, (b) history of disruptive behaviors, as evidenced by discipline referrals, police reports, Juvenile Assessment Center Reports, and/or social/emotional testing, and (c) past or current involvement with one or more community service agencies. The EIP must have procedures in place for addressing students receiving services under the model. In all cases of unexcused absences, a personal phone call is made to inform parents. When the first day of unexcused absence occurs, the attendance contact person makes a person to person contact with the student and parent/guardian. The attendance contact person documents the unexcused absence in the truancy tab. The administrator places the student into the In School Suspension/Structured Day or Saturday School at discretion. The consequences for unexcused absences grow progressively. Finally the school and district personnel determine that court intervention is necessary in order to enforce compliance with compulsory school attendance law. Additional consequences include sanction letters, assignment to a Truancy Specialist, and a court order that would remain in effect until the student reaches the age of 17. 77
Data Collection The research questions for this study are best answered using quantitative and qualitative collection methods. Gliner and Morgan, 2000 provides specific data collection techniques to employ upon identification of the research approach to be utilized. Quantitative and/or qualitative data collection is appropriate for case studies which utilize surveys, interviews, and content analysis for collecting data (Gliner Morgan, 2000). Qualitative methods focus on telling a story from the perspective of the researcher, who relies on the participants in the study (Merriam, et. al). Quantitative methods focus on numbers to make sense of the data collected (Lin, 1986). Using methods from both paradigms will ensure that all areas are covered in evaluating the effectiveness of the truancy reduction program. This study coordinates several quantitative and qualitative procedures for collecting data. Each area will be covered in detail in this section. Case study allows several techniques to be incorporated for the purposes of data collection (Merriam, 1988) which leads to greater understanding of the phenomena being studied. The following tools provide broad perspectives and knowledge about the Aurora Public Schools' Early Intervention Program: (a) TRAIN web tool student survey, (b) attendance and achievement data, (c) individual interviews, and (d) document review. These collection methods will provide the researcher 78
with a breadth of knowledge to inform an evaluation of the Early Intervention Program. A broad range of data collection techniques are used in this study in order to gain an understanding of the phenomenon being researched from the participant's perspective as they are involved daily in the truancy reduction processes. Yin (1984) indicates the appropriateness of case study when the researcher is unable to separate the variables from the context in which they exist. This situation is unique to the Early Intervention Program which exists in one school district and is being individualized based on the population it serves. Table 3.1 provides a visual demonstration of the data collection techniques used for this study. After the table, a description of the tool and its' intended purpose is discussed in greater detail. 79
Table 3.1 Data collection strategies DATA COLLECTION ITEM PARTICIP ANT TOTAL METHOD PARTICIPANTS TRAIN 40 Indicators Students 39 Survey Individual 45 Minutes Elementary 2 Interviews Students 45 Minutes Middle 3 School Students 45 Minutes High 3 School Students 60 Minutes Court Interview Magistrate Document Court Researcher Review Documents will obtain Program and review Documents district Attendance related Policies documents Field Notes Interview documentation Notes Informal Conversations Court Visits 80
The Truancy Reduction Application Interface (TRAIN) survey was created by the National Center for School Engagement. This tool provides answers to research questions number 1. What effect does individualized support have on student attendance and achievement? TRAIN is a web-based system for collecting data which allows users to track attendance, achievement, and behavior as well as any interventions being received by youth who have been identified as habitually truant. The TRAIN tool is designed to allow the user to receive ongoing updates on student's progress. This comprehensive tool allows service providers to assess students ongoing and make adjustments in the interventions being provided as necessary. Reports can be customized for individual or groups of students to determine the effectiveness of truancy reduction programs. The TRAIN Survey is an online data collection tool utilized in Aurora Public Schools through the truancy prevention and intervention office. This data collection tool allows the school district to collect data on students and individualize services as necessary. Online data collection is becoming a widely used and recognized method for collecting data (Granello, 2004). Surveys are used to collect individual data on truant students. There are two aspects to utilizing surveys to collect information about people's views attitudes, and beliefs. The researcher is concerned with the sample and design in determining
to use this fonnat for quantitative data collection (Borg Gall & Gall, 1996; Fink, 2006). The TRAIN data collection tool is designed to ask questions and collect demographic data that allows the user to create a profile. This profile is analyzed and leads to a global understanding of factors contributing to the student's habitually truant behavior. The TRAIN Survey provides descriptive statistics followed by achievement infonnation, attendance statistics, discipline referrals, employment, protective factors, risk factors and ends with interventions that have been used with the student. Interventions include parent education support, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, and academic support. This infonnation forms the basis for a complete profile of the students participating in the EIP. The sample for the interviews in this study consists of elementary, middle, and high school students. The interviews are facilitated by the researcher. The researcher incorporates three types of interviewing to include basic informational type questions, open-ended questions, and unstructured questions (Merriam, 1988). This semi-formal fonnat maximizes the opportunity to gather data while allowing the interviewer to build on the thoughts of the interviewee. Probing questions are asked as necessary to gain more insight from the participant.
The interviews are designed to provide insight to all three research questions: 1. What effect does individualized support have on student attendance and achievement? 2. What interventions are successful in increasing student's attendance from the student's perspective? 3. What effect does a collaborative approach to truancy have on student attendance and achievement from the stakeholder's perspective? Taylor and Bogdon (1984) identifies steps to be taken prior to conducting an interview: (a) the investigator's motives and intentions and the inquiry's purpose, (b) the protection of respondents through the use of pseudonyms, (c) deciding who has final say over the study's content, (d) payment (if any), and (e) logistics with regard to time, place, and number of interviews to be scheduled (pp. 87-88). A total of 8 individual interviews, 7 students and one Truancy Court Magistrate is conducted. The interviews provide opportunities to hear the individual perspectives of key individuals in the EIP. The researcher gains insight from the truancy court magistrate and the students. Interviews are taped and later coded for themes that emerge from the conversations. Information gained from the interviews addresses research questions number two and three. What interventions are successful in increasing student's attendance from the 83
student's perspective? What effect does a collaborative approach to truancy have on student attendance and achievement from the stakeholders' perspectives? The researcher meets with the Truancy Reduction and Intervention Coordinator in Aurora Public Schools to obtain all documents utilized for the truancy reduction program. A thorough review of all documents is conducted by the researcher The documents are reviewed to determine if the necessary conditions exist for student success in the early intervention program. Specifically do the attendance policies provide the necessary structures for ensuring attendance in school? Are guidelines present for schools to address truant behavior? Are parents made aware of compulsory school attendance law? The document review consists of court paperwork truancy program paperwork and attendance policies and regulations The review of documents supports research question number two. What strategies/interventions are successful in increasing student's attendance from the student's and school district's perspective? The National Center for School Engagement has identified specific criteria for model truancy reduction program. These programs should aim to encourage success in school, encourage prosocial behavior, improve family situations, reduce adult criminal behavior and promote positive attitudes (Smink Heilbrunn 2005). This criterion is used to review the program documents in order to ultimately provide feedback to the 84
school district regarding best practices in truancy reduction interventions if discrepancies are discovered. Data Analyses The researcher is responsible for the analysis of all the data collected for this study. After each meeting, the collected data was reviewed and analyzed to detennine themes. The constant comparative method is employed to allow the researcher to transcribe code and detennine themes as they emerge from the data. Each of the data collection tools are analyzed individually in Chapter 3 as well: Train Survey, Individual Interviews, and Document Review. Upon completion of interviews, the data is analyzed while the infonnation remains clear in the researcher's mind. Table 3.2 provides a visual representation of the techniques used to analyze the data for this study. 85
Table 3.2 Data collection methods and analysis TRAIN Survey Quantitative Descriptive Statistics Attendance Data Achievement Data Individual Interviews Document Review: Field Notes Court Documents Observations, CARB Documents, Support Groups Expedited Court Monitoring Log Qualitative Qualitative Content Analysis Document Analysis Develop Preliminary Coding Sheet Content analysis employs specific procedures to ensure errors are avoided. Contact summary fonns or document summary fonns consists of a single sheet will allow the researcher to summarize infonnation gained from the contact. The following items are addressed on the summary fonn: (a) people/event involved, (b) themes or issues which emerged, (c) research questions addressed, and (d) any hypotheses or views about the situation suggested by the contact (Hubennan Miles, 1994). There are specific steps taken for content analysis. Borg et. aI, 1996 provides the following instructions for content analysis: (a) detennine which documents will be used, (b) List research questions, outcomes, and goals, (c) select sample items from the entire 86
document population, (d) decide how the documents will be coded, (e) complete the actual analysis looking for frequency counts, and (f) decide what the results mean (Borg et. aI, 1996). Quantitative Analyses The researcher analyzes the survey instrument and TRAIN tool utilizing the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). This software program presents both statistical and descriptive data and allows the researcher to evaluate the effectiveness of the TRP as it pertains to research question number 1. What effect does a supportive approach have on student attendance and achievement? The researcher looks for improvement in the areas of attendance and achievement. Improvement varies by student, but at a minimal, students should show a decrease of 5% in the number of unexcused absences and improvement of one letter grade for classes where students are failing. Pre attendance and achievement are compared to post attendance and achievement for both elementary and middle school participants. A T-Test is run with the SPSS program to compare variance between the pre and post attendance data and the pre and post achievement data in order to detennine if variances exist (Borg et. ai, 1996; Gliner Morgan, 2000). Further, the researcher views the predetennined expected percentage increase against what actually occurs in the post review of the data. 87
The raw numbers are placed into the program and quantitative data are produced for analysis. The information gained is used to summarize the variables and determine if any changes occurred in the data. Student data is viewed twice during the period of the study. The researcher is interested in analyzing the data to determine if any changes occurred after students had an opportunity to work with a truancy specialist and had exposure to other truancy reduction program interventions. Qualitative Analyses Qualitative data analysis does not occur in isolation. Huberman and Miles (1994) describe the process as three concurrent procedures. Data reduction consists of constantly reviewing, chunking, and organizing the data. Data display is the process of determining how to view the data in rows, columns, charts, or networks. Drawing conclusions and verifying the data are the final step in qualitative analysis (Huberman Miles, 1994). The researcher understands the importance of incorporating these steps in order to effectively manage the qualitative data. Qualitative data consist of "detailed descriptions of situations, events, people, interactions, and observed behaviors; direct quotations from people about their experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts; and excerpts or entire passages from documents, correspondence, records, and case histories" (Patton, 88
1980 p. 22). The overall purpose of qualitative research is to make meaning out of the experience (Merriam, 1998). Qualitative analysis is used with the tapes and notes collected from the interviews, and document analysis. Interviews and analysis of documents consists of "words uttered or written by the participants in the natural setting" (Borg et aI., 1996). The researcher analyzes the notes and tapes from each interview to identify the themes that emerge. The Microsoft Word Track changes tool is used to aid the researcher in making sense of the data. Open ended questions will be asked to gain understandings from the student's perspective regarding the truancy reduction program. Interpretational analysis is the tool used for analyzing the data in this case study. Borg, Gall and Gall, 1996 defines interpretational analysis as "the process of examining case study data closely in order to find constructs, themes, and patterns that can be used to describe and explain the phenomenon being studied (p. 562). Analyzing data in this way leads to useful insights about the study. The researcher compiles all of the case study data into a computer file which will segment the infonnation. The most important component of interpretational analysis is creating categories that provide a summary of the data Categories are also referred to as constructs which emerge from the observations. These categories are assigned a numerical value and referred to as variables The process of developing the segments into categories is indicative 89
of the principles established around grounded theory (Rossi, 1993). This process is referred to as grounded because the categories are derived from the data collected. The last three steps in interpretational analysis consist of coding segments, grouping category segments and finally drawing conclusions. Interpretational analysis and constant comparison allows the researcher to be confident with the categories and well established coding instructions (Borg et aI., 1996). A tape recorder is used to ensure the researcher understands the information provided by the participants. The researcher transcribes the interviews verbatim prior to beginning the analysis. The researcher uses the written notes and tape recording to aid in analyzing the information as it is collected. The transcripts are reviewed and listened to multiple times and then the coding process begins to determine the overarching concepts and ideas that emerge from the data. Many documents and artifacts exist to provide support within the APS early intervention program. The researcher completes a detailed review of the various tools used within the program. The researcher meets with district personnel to request copies of the documents used in the implementation of the Early Intervention Program. These items include the following items: (a) court protocols, (b) community attendance review board forms, (c) attendance policies, (d) attendance protocols, and (e) compulsory attendance laws. The 90
researcher creates a chart of all documents and detennines procedures for reviewing these documents including the role that these artifacts play in the program. Validity and Reliability Merriam 1998 states that validity must be assessed in tenns of interpreting the investigator's experience rather than in tenns of reality itself. There is no universal way of guaranteeing validity. Internal validity is ensured through triangulation, member checking, and identification of researcher's biases (Merriam, 1998). Construct validity for the TRAIN web based data collection tool, is detennined through researchers with the National Center for School Engagement. According to Seeley (2006), this tool has been used for 5 years in tracking student progress in truancy reduction programs. TRAIN has also been used to detennine the effectiveness of many truancy reduction efforts in schools. The questions on the TRAIN survey are all geared to create a picture of the whole child in an effort to understand which factors contribute to a child's success. Core questions exist on the TRAIN tool, but construct validity is increased when questions are individualized to test factors that are unique to each individual school district's program. The researcher works with experts at the National Center for School Engagement to do a reliability study of the scales in the TRAIN data base. This analysis consists of the following steps being completed: (a) complete the item
scale scores for every student input into the TRAIN database, (b) enter the information into SPSS, and (c) compute the coefficient alphas. This allows the researcher to correlate attendance data with interventions and risk factors. This analysis provides a form of concurrent validity for the information loaded into the TRAIN database. Utilizing SPSS, instead of human calculations, ensures more accuracy in the statistics. In this study the researcher analyzes reliability of the survey instrument administered and therefore ensures homogeneity exists in the measure. The measure is designed to measure the effectiveness ofthe truancy reduction program and should ask questions aimed at testing this program. Summary This study provides a foundation for gaining understanding about working with truant youth. This mixed methods design format allows the researcher to hear the perspective of the participants and build knowledge regarding best practice for working with truant students and their families. The information gained from the data collection and analyses is instrumental in determining the effectiveness of the Early Intervention Program in Aurora Public Schools. Figure 1.1 provides a visual representation of the relationship and interconnectedness of the research questions, chosen methods, purpose of the study and the theoretical framework. 92
have student attendm achievement? 2. successfU increasing students' attendance from student's perspective? Vt1lat effect does to truancy have on attenda1ce achievemert stakeholders' perspectives? evaluate the Figure 1.1 : DATA RELATIONSHIPS 93 MElIIODSt InterYiews
CHAPTER IV FINDINGS Description of Early Intervention Program and Services In this chapter the findings of the Early Intervention Program (EIP) are shared. The findings from quantitative and qualitative analyses are presented separately. First, I present findings from the TRAIN survey data for the 39 EIP students. Next, I present qualitative findings which include the analysis of review of documents which support the EIP program, interview of one truancy court magistrate, and interviews of seven students. The chapter concludes with responses to the research questions for this study. The EIP was developed in response to the perpetual truancy issues of students in Aurora Public Schools. This program is a collaborative effort among school sites, courts, and various partners who work with students and families to rectify issues of chronic truancy. The EIP provides comprehensive services to students who have been identified as habitually truant. The services available to students include: truancy specialists support, family involvement, mentoring opportunities, case management model, interventions (parent education/support, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, academic support), community attendance review board process, positive behavior support, 94
partnerships (18th Judicial District, City of Aurora, Aurora Police Department, Office of Youth Development, Arapahoe City Department of Human Services, Adams City Truancy Consortium, Aurora Center for Treatment, Aurora Mental Health, Children's Hospital, and CASA). Once a student is identified as habitually truant, the truancy specialists work with designated school officials to create a comprehensive plan to aid the student in being more successful with school attendance. Quantitative Findings of TRAIN Data Analysis The TRAIN survey data collection tool is used to collect information on students in the EIP program. This tool provides demographic and anecdotal data on truant students. Data is analyzed individually to better understand each student. Data is also reviewed collectively to determine how students are progressing in the EIP program. Additionally, attendance and achievement data are obtained for student participants to answer the research questions. The following analyses are based on student data reviewed from the TRAIN database (See Appendix A). An analysis is completed after student records are reviewed and identified as complete. In TRAIN, the intake period is also identified as which refers to the period of time prior to students receiving any support through the Truancy Reduction Program. Specifically, students have not received intensive case management at Update O. The intake data serve as a baseline from which to measure student progress in the areas of 95
attendance and achievement. Student infonnation is generally updated every three months during the school year. There are situations beyond the control of the data entry person which may cause some intervals to be longer or shorter than anticipated. This report is based on data from Update 0 and the third update period 3), spanning approximately two school semesters, or one school year. In the TRAIN database for the EIP program, boys make up 53% ofthe students in the database and girls make up 47%. The majority of the students are Hispanic (63%). Black students make up 26% of the participants followed by White students (8%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders at 3%. The students in this study are currently in grades 1 through 9, with seventh grade making up the largest population of students at 26%. Sixty-six percent of student participants receive free lunch and 25% ofthe students are marked for free or reduced lunches. Thirteen percent of the EIP students have an Individual Education Plan which indicates some fonn of learning disability. Figure 2.1 and Figure 2.2 provide visual representations of students in the EIP program by ethnicity and gender respectively. 96
Figure 2.1: VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF STUDENTS IN THE EIP ;c, '0 Figure 2.2: THIS IS A GENDER BREAKDOWN OF EIP STUDENTS 97
TRAIN also collects data on the reasons students give for skipping school. Students provide a multitude of reasons for being out of school. These reasons include illness, transportation, family vacations, and older children caring for younger siblings. Table 4.1 identifies the major reasons why students in the EIP skip school. Illness and transportation are the major reasons cited for not attending school. Very little literature exists on the reasons students provide for skipping school. Heilbrunn (2003) indicates TRAIN relies on self-reports and information reported by adults. Table 4.1 Reasons students give for skipping school Illness Transportation Too tired to get up Family vacation Need to care for others Bored Does not get along with other students 11 8 6 2 2 Protective and risk factors are identified in TRAIN to help educators better understand the source of problems experienced by at-risk youth Risk factors are the opposite of protective factors. By identifying the underlying 98
causes of problems, one can predict which students are likely to have certain challenges in life (Heilbrunn, 2003). Truant youth often have a combination of risk factors that makes it difficult for them to be in school and on time each day. The TRAIN database collects information on 12 of the most common factors faced by youth truant from school. The risk factors are: (a) poor academic achievement, (b) expecting a child, (c) chronic health problems, (d) alcohol or drug use, (e) problematic behavior, (f) bullied, (g) troublesome peer relationships, (h) loss of someone close (generally death, incarceration, divorce, abandonment), (i) trouble getting along with family members, (j) changes in residence, (k) living situations, (1) family stressors, and (m) transportation. Table 4.2 depicts the 12 challenges most commonly experienced by truant youth. In analyzing the TRAIN data, poor academic achievement is ranked as the number one challenge faced by truant youth. Not surprisingly, the achievement gap widens for truant youth the more days they are out of school. Twenty-seven of the 31 students struggled academically at intake. Change in residence is the second most common challenge faced by students. Twelve students had moved at some point between the update periods. The final two most frequently occurring challenges for truant youth were loss of someone significant and family stressors Twelve students have experienced one or both of these challenges. 99
Table 4.2 Challenges faced by students in the EIP Risk Factor # of Students Poor Academic Achievement 27 Changes in Residence 14 Loss 12 Family Stressors 12 Living Situations 9 Chronic Health Problems 8 Problematic Behavior 8 Transportation 7 Family Members 5 A T-test was run to compare the mean pre and post attendance and achievement result for students. Data will be demonstrated in a graph and followed by a table comparing the means. I utilized the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to analyze the TRAIN data. Statistical and descriptive data will be presented to answer research question number 1, In the analysis I looked for improvement in the areas of attendance and achievement. Improvement will vary by student, but at a minimum, students 100
should show a decrease of 5% in the number of unexcused absences and improvement ofa.5 in the Grade Point Average (GPA). Pre attendance and achievement will be compared to post attendance and achievement for elementary and middle school participants. Next, I reviewed the predetennined expected percentage increase against what actually occurred in the postreview of the data. The T -test was run to detennine if there was at least one mean difference between groups. In comparing unexcused absence periods for pre attendance to unexcused absence periods for post attendance, the omnibus tests of the main effects were statistically significant for the pre and post attendance in which we tested the means between the two. The means for pre attendance were higher than post attendance. These differences are statistically significant at the p>.OOI level. Table 4.3 Pre and post attendance Attendance 44.73 7.43 .001 In comparing GP A for pre achievement to GPA for post achievement, the omnibus tests of the main effects were statistically significant for pre and post student achievement. The means for preachievement was slightly higher
than the means of post achievement for the truant students. Tests ofthe main effects were statistically significant for the pre and post achievement in which we tested the means between pre and post GPA. The means for preachievement were higher than postachievement. These differences are statistically significant at the p=.OOO level. On the post achievement data, students showed a significant decrease in post achievement measured by GPA. Table 4.4 Pre and postachievement Achievement 2.15 The TRAIN database also provides evidence of improvement in .000 attendance between the intake period and the three updates. There was a 45% decrease in the rate of unexcused attendance in periods between Intake and Update 3. Early Intervention Program students have demonstrated improvement in their attendance. Figure 2.3 represents the change in attendance by period from intake to Update 3. \02
1l 0.. -11 2: T .111% -6. o -..., ....... ---.--........ Figure 2.3: CHANGES IN ATTENDANCE 3 6-. "" Qualitative Findings Qualitative data collection was employed in the form of document reviews and interviews to gain more information about the EIP and answer the research questions. Multiple forms of data collection were used in order to corroborate the findings. The data collected in this research were triangulated across sources and methods (Patton, 1990; Yin, 1994). I compared the information collected from different sources and different participants. I reviewed various documents in an effort to gain a better understanding of the procedures which govern the implementation of the EIP. One truancy court magistrate and seven students participated in individual interviews with the researcher. The interview protocol and questions are included in Appendices A-D. In the interviews the participants give voice and personal meaning to the issues of truancy and provide deeper insight into a problem plaguing schools and communities across the United States. 103
Document Review The Early Intervention Program uses many documents to ensure accountability for addressing truancy in Aurora Public Schools. The documents I reviewed included the following: (a) expedited court monitoring log, (b) courtroom observations, (c) truancy policies, regulations, and exhibits, (d) truancy reduction protocol, and (e) Interventions Sign-in sheets. This log was extremely helpful in demonstrating the power of the collaboration between the courts and the schools. is imperative that the information contained in this log is accurate since a lot ofthe magistrate's decisions are based on the data. Inaccurate reporting of attendance or other student information could result in a case being overturned according to the truancy court magistrate. The court magistrate relies heavily on school district personnel to keep this information up to date. The court monitoring log serves as documentation of many efforts. Primarily it is used to document demographic and anecdotal information on a student. This data informs the courts of the progress made by the school to date. The first page of this log consists of an outline of the documents included. The demographic information is collected from the school district's student information system, Infinite Campus. The summary page, attendance, grades, discipline, contact log, and items from the truancy tab are all included. The truancy tab allows the data clerk to keep a chronological list of strategies and 104
interventions implemented for students identified as truant. A complete listing of the items contained in the court monitoring log is included in Appendix F. District efforts towards truancy reduction are documented in Appendix G. These documents outline steps taken to correct habitual truant behavior. The first item included in this section is the goal Plan form which allows the truancy specialist to identify specific goals for everyone involved in truancy reduction efforts with a student. The goals specifically address tardies, behavior and achievement. The EIP referral is also included in these documents. The following information is gathered: demographic information, history of truancy, student and family strengths and resources and steps taken prior to referral. This information is sent to the EIP coordinator to begin the process of identifying a student for services. The EIP program is data-driven and a variety of assessments are provided for truant students. The TRAIN data collection tool is utilized for all EIP students. Additionally, this information is used to assess effectiveness of interventions and identify next steps needed for children. Other assessments included in this profile are Juvenile Assessment Center evaluations, Mental Health Evaluations, Special Education Individual Education Plans, and the Case Manager Assessment Report. This information is very important and helps the truancy court magistrate determine what has been effective or ineffective in
working with students. Interventions are determined based on what has and has not worked for students to date. The court documents consist of the sanction letter, new case memo, affidavit of attendance, and valid court orders. The sanction letter is sent from the district's truancy lawyer and delivered to the home of the student via certified mail. Sanction letters are a last attempt to get students to comply with Colorado Compulsory Attendance Law (22-33-101, et. seq., CRS). If the sanction letter is ineffective in eradicating truancy, the truancy specialist creates a new case memo to implement the process for mandating a student to court. The affidavit of attendance and valid court orders are issued through the court. The affidavit of attendance confirms the attendance of students and the number of class periods that have led to the student being declared habitually truant. The Valid Court Order serves as the official document issued by the court to the parent and provided me with an understanding about how the courts become involved in truancy cases. This order allows the court to exercise its jurisdiction regarding enforcement of compulsory attendance laws. Schools and courts collaborate to ensure students are held accountable for attending schools. Complete lists of the Arapahoe County 18th Judicial Court documents are included in Appendix H. Court for the EIP is held every Tuesday at the Arapahoe County 18th Judicial Courtroom. Each session begins with students 106
and families hearing their rights and a review of the order in which court will proceed I had an opportunity to twice observe in Magistrate Moss' court where she was hearing truancy cases Magistrate Moss' courtroom processes flow very smoothly. The most interesting observation is the collaborative processes encouraged by Magistrate Moss. The school, parent, social services, and mental health services are all utilized, as needed to address the needs ofthe child. During one of my visits the Magistrate was hearing the case of three students who emigrated from Micronesia. The charges against the student and parents were read and proceedings began. Magistrate Moss provides ample opportunity for the family to explain why the truant behavior has ensued. The Mag i strate probes and asks clarifying questions throughout the hearing to ensure understanding of everything going on with the children. She constantly reminds others that truancy is a symptom of something else going on in a child's life. She demonstrates skill in detennining what is plaguing the students and causing the truant behavior The Magistrate pulled from a multitude of resources to ensure she was getting to the root causes of the truant behavior. She continued to probe to detennine why the children were unable to get to school. A lot of reasons were given, but the magistrate wasn't convinced that the reasons being provided were the "true" reasons for the truant behavior. Eventually the mother shared that she struggles with sending the children to school on cold days because they are not
accustomed to cold weather having recently emigrated from a country with a very warm climate. Without batting an eyelash the magistrate turned to the truancy specialist and said, "Get these kids some coats." She then explained to the mom that keeping her kids at home because it was too cold was a violation of compulsory attendance laws. Magistrate Moss set some goals for the family and rescheduled an appearance in court to review progress in three weeks. Visiting the court was extremely beneficial and helped me to better understand the support the courts provide to families to enforce compulsory attendance. The way the schools, courts, and community collaborate was also made clearer. During the summer of 1997 the Arapahoe County Court made a request for APS to develop a systematic formalized intervention process to address the issues of chronic absenteeism among students. This process included the establishment of a Community Attendance Review Board, and would serve as a springboard for addressing truancy prior to filing a truancy action in court. The CARB consisted of school officials and a coalition of community service organizations to assist students and families In the initial years of CARB implementation, schools neglected to effectively use this resource. This process is being refined and utilized consistently to address truancy in APS. The CARB meets with the family to develop an intervention plan that specifically identifies systems and resources the school and collaborating
organizations/agencies will provide. Expectations and responsibilities for improving attendance are also established for the student and the parent or guardian. The meeting and contract is designed to improve the student's attendance and academic achievement. Parents and students are informed that failure to comply with the conditions of the CARB attendance contract may result in the child being referred to truancy court. The intervention process consists of a 4-tiered plan to address issues of truancy. At levell, the school intervenes by contacting the parent regarding the attendance concerns. Level 2 consists of a conference with the administrator and other school personnel. At level 3, the parent and student must meet with the CARB to identify additional resources for the family and develop a formalized plan. If the student is unsuccessful with CARB, level 4 is activated which includes court intervention. The CARB system is beneficial as an intervention for habitually truant students. A complete CARB packet is included in Appendix This process speaks to the collaboration between the school district and community agencies. These organizations constantly look for ways they can support students and families. Many resources are provided through the school and the partnerships. 2.4 is a visual representation of the 4-tiered process for addressing excessive absences 109
Figure 2.4. EXCESSIVE ABSENCE INTERVENTIONS o The attendance policies, regulations, and exhibits were revised extensively during the 2007-2008 school year. An effective truancy reduction program must have strong attendance policies which enforce compulsory attendance laws. Unfortunately, the APS attendance policies had not been revised since 1986 and many of the practices were outdated. Under previous policies, students were still being suspended or expelled for truancy. This backwards way of providing consequences for poor attendance legitimizes students' noncompliant behavior by giving them pennission to be out of school (Heilbrunn, 200). The revised policies also provide consistency in the way unexcused absences and tardies are addressed throughout the district. The completely revised attendance policies can be reviewed in Appendix J. This
is one of the most important documents for the EIP program. Having consistent district wide policies and procedures ensures fidelity of implementation of the truancy program. The truancy reduction protocols for the Early Intervention Program were created during the 2008-2009 school year. was beneficial for the researcher to review and understand this protocol whichclearly identifies expectations for schools in working with truant students. The protocols systematize expectations for EIP schools in addressing absences in APS. Addressing unexcused absences was initially at the discretion ofthe school, making it difficult to proactively and effectively address truancy systemically. The new protocols mandated schools to contact the parent of any student who received an unexcused absence. This allowed schools to demonstrate to parents the seriousness of the problem at the lowest levels possible. Specific expectations were identified from of the first through tenth day of unexcused absence at which time a student would be labeled habitually truant. Appendix identifies the steps schools must take each day for truant students. Students in the EIP program have several interventions available to them to assist with addressing the underlying causes of truancy. Currently students receive services in the forms of case management, academic tutoring, mental health counseling, family support group and/or family
counseling, drug and alcohol abuse counseling, gang awareness courses. All interventions use sign-in sheets for accountability, and attendance sheets are used to detennine level of participation and the necessity for continuing to offer a service. Interventions are tracked for individual students using the TRAIN data collection tool. A review ofthe intervention fonns provides an opportunity for me to detennine the classes being offered for students and to check for student participation in the interventions. A graphic identifying truancy interventions and community partnerships can be found in Appendix K. The document review provides a more in-depth understanding into the Early Intervention Program. In order for programs to be successful, an accountability system must be present to ensure consistency in implementation. The documents reviewed clearly provide support for the Early Intervention Program in APS. The expectations for all stakeholders are clearly communicated through these user-friendly documents. Early Intervention Program Participants' Sites The Early Intervention Program consists of students at one elementary school, one middle school and two high schools. Although Aurora Public Schools has district-wide truancy reduction efforts, this study focuses primarily on students participating in the Early Intervention Program at Kenton Elementary School, South Middle School, Gateway High School, and Aurora Central High School. Upon reviewing the TRAIN data and learning about students in the program it 112
was detennined that more infonnation was needed. Students who could provide additional infonnation about their experiences were selected to participate in the program. These sites are all located in Aurora Public Schools in the northern area of the school district where some of the most at-risk students in the district attend school. Creativity, familial, collaboration, enthusiasm, and hope are words that come to mind when visiting this urban elementary school where 555 students are educated each day. The front office staff is welcoming and the principal enjoys escorting visitors through the school. The kid-friendly walls are full of student work and boastfully display the commitment of children and adults. A positive energy is evident throughout this school and diversity is clearly embraced as 86% of the students are Hispanic, 6% African American, 5% Anglo and 3% other. This school is clearly a place where most adults and students come to learn. The climate is very positive and conducive to learning. Kenton has many demographic challenges they must address in working with its student population. Eighty-six percent of Kenton's student body receives free or reduced lunch and 85% of the students are English Language Learners. In 2007-2008, Kenton had an average daily attendance rate of95% and roughly 2% of the student population was identified as habitually truant. The Early Intervention Program provides support to Kenton Elementary School to improve the attendance of those identified as habitually truant. Truancy
specialists are assigned to work with students at participating schools. These specialists work collaboratively with families and other partners to ensure students receive comprehensive services to improve their attendance. This open campus middle school was built on the style of schools in California. Bustling, energetic, fun, and student filled are the feelings experienced by the researcher while walking through this school. Students were talking animatedly with their friends as they moved throughout the building on the campus. was clear that everyone had a sense of purpose as they changed classes. Security is clearly a priority at this middle school. The front office clerk greeted me and ensured that I had identification and other necessary documents prior to meeting with the student. This southwest Aurora public middle school serves 650 students in grades six through eight. South boasts a diverse student popUlation with 63% of the students being Hispanic, 22% African American, 10% White, and 5% other. The staff has many challenges. Forty-nine percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch and 54% of the students are English Language Learners. South has an average daily attendance rate of 92%. Students participating in the Early Intervention Program have been declared habitually truant by the state definition. Nine percent of South's student population fits the definition of habitually truant. These students require multiple interventions to be successful in school. The truancy specialist has been assigned to provide intensive case
management services to these truant students. Multiple strategies are used by the truancy specialist to assist students in correcting truant behavior. The goal is to get students re-engaged in school without having court intervention. Diverse, fonnidable and sociable are initial impressions of this comprehensive Aurora Public High School which is home to 2296 students. The office staff is multi-tasking, answering phones, completing computer related tasks, and using the two way radios. takes awhile acknowledge visitors to the school. During my visit, I was eventually provided a quick list of do's and don'ts before being sent to another office to prepare for student interviews. Central serves students in grades 9-12. The demographics of the diverse student population consist of 68% Hispanic, 18% African American, 11 % Anglo, and 3% Native American. Seventy percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. This high school is faced with many issues including a graduation rate of 55%. One of the school's greatest challenges is getting students to school and on time each day. This is evident in the average daily attendance rate which sits at 86%. Habitually truant youth have been recommended for participation in the Early Intervention Program. In 2007-2008, 63% of the student body was declared habitually truant. Addressing the issue of truancy in such a large high school is an extremely challenging task (Barry, 2008). The truancy specialist has been assigned to provide intensive Case Management services to these
truant students. The truancy specialist is responsible for utilizing multiple strategies to assist the student in correcting the truant behavior. The goal is to get students re-engaged in school without having court intervention. Dedication, integrity, community, and respect are clear values at this Aurora public high school which serves 1690 students in grades 9-12. Gateway is located in the Southwest quadrant of Aurora. This school has the Positive Behavior System program. Students are always working towards earning coveted tokens for demonstrating good citizenship. This high school is not currently participating in the Early Intervention Program. Gateway is included in this study since one of the student participants for this case study recently transferred to Gateway. The student will continue to receive EIP services and be under the guidance of Magistrate Moss in the Arapahoe County 18th Judicial Courts until released from court. Truancy Court Magistrate Interview The courts playa critical role in the EIP in APS. Magistrate Moss was recruited by the 18th Judicial Arapahoe County Courts because of her work with reducing Truancy in Pueblo, Colorado. This magistrate is extremely passionate about her work with truant youth and she believes she can make a difference. She was firm, yet compassionate in her interactions with students and families. Magistrate Moss works collaboratively with the school district's truancy specialists to get young people re-engaged in school. She acknowledges
the feelings adults tend to exhibit toward truant youth. She refuses to allow these feelings to manifest in her courtroom. All families and children are respected and valued. The attention she provides to each case is one of individualization and regard for the role everyone plays in helping truant students and re-engaging them in school. Moss indicates, I think some people tend to get a little frustrated because kids are kids and families are families but we have to remember that if these were the best families, if these were the best kids, they wouldn't be in truancy court so we have to always treat these families like they are families with some special needs and we need to figure out what supports need to be in place and hold everyone accountable and we will be successful and achieve with every single student. I do believe that. I do believe that. I'm passionate about this. Magistrate Moss doesn't accept "no" for an answer when it comes to educating students. The court system has been instrumental in assisting the district in finding partnerships to ensure the interventions students need are available. Interventions frequently ordered from the bench by Moss have proven beneficial in helping students and families to be successful. The Magistrate acknowledges the role environment plays in determining appropriate interventions for students. She shares her thought processes for identifying what's needed in a child's life. Moss suggests, Once I figure out what's going on in the child's life my goal is to find whatever interventions that are available to intervene with the student and the family; not just the
student because the child is a product of his or her environment on a daily basis. I'm constantly trying to figure out okay what dynamic is taking place in the family home that is causing this symptom of truancy. Magistrate Moss has been a juvenile and district court magistrate since November 2002. Currently, she is a District Court Magistrate in Arapahoe County hearing domestic and juvenile matters. Magistrate Moss brings a whole new twist to the bench when hearing truancy cases. She indicates "I wish 1 could do truancy all day. This is where 1 believe 1 can make the greatest impact." Prior to her appointment to the bench in Arapahoe County, she was a Magistrate in Pueblo, Colorado and a family court facilitator for the lOth Judicial District in Pueblo. She has also been in private practice as a partner in the Moss Law Firm which specializes in family law. She has served as a truancy consultant in Arapahoe County and a deputy district attorney in Pueblo. Magistrate Moss brings a wealth of previous experiences to the bench in her work with truant youth. She strongly believes in the power of establishing relationships and collaborations between school, family, and courts. She spends quality time getting to know her students and families. The Magistrate says by doing this legwork the below can occur, Once I figure out what the problem is then my goal is to become more relationship based; not me necessarily the court being more relationship based with the child but relationship based in figuring out what is going to motivate this student and the family; 1 never separate the child from the family because regardless that child is still a product of lIS
that family; they know their culture. I'm constantly trying to work with families and change the dynamics so that the student can be more successful. The truancy court magistrate made it very clear she prefers schools to manage truancy and intervene early enough in order to make it unnecessary for children to be ordered to attend court. She frequently states 'our goal is to work the truancy specialists out of a job'. The Magistrate becomes involved when mUltiple interventions have proven unsuccessful in managing student attendance. Generally students have been unsuccessful at the three-tiered level of interventions utilized by the school district including the Community Attendance Review Board (CARB) where members from various agencies work with the students and schools to rectify truancy issues. The final intervention requires students to appear before the court magistrate to explain their truancy lssues. The magistrate imposes sanctions to enforce compulsory attendance laws. Magistrate Moss shared her frustration regarding the steps that must be taken after students are court ordered to attend school. She says, Once we get them back in school which is often one of the biggest challenges then we are looking at attendance, attachment, grades and relevance. Relevance you just touched on it before when we were talking. Relevance is so very important. Students must have a purpose for attending school.
Moss has a clear understanding of the dynamics taking place when a habitually truant student is returned to school. Teachers are challenged to work with students who are already so much further behind than the other students. Several strategies must be put into place to help a student be successful in the school micro system. Moss elaborates, Now I've got this child sitting in the classroom; they are behind and we need a plan for remediation and a plan for attachment and engagement; how are we going to bring this young person up to speed and find an adult with which they can identify; find a comfort level in the school setting; teachers can't teach if students aren't in school; I finnly believe in that; you can have the best teacher in the world but if the kid is laying in front of the TV at home, it doesn't do much good. Once we get them in school, we must find the support to keep them there. Moss has been instrumental in helping to grow the program in Aurora Public Schools. She freely shares her knowledge and previous experiences in growing the Truancy Reduction Program in Pueblo, Colorado. She credits APS for making and taking great strides in growing a model program in a short time. Moss states, I was involved in assisting APS in developing the EIP program. I was also involved in an EIP called Project Respect that was similar. Substantially similar actually to the EIP program and was tested and has been a significant part of the School Based Community in Pueblo CO for at least the last 7 or 8 years. Moss is very confident the EIP in Aurora Public Schools will become a model truancy program. She credits APS' dedication for the growth made in this
program. Moss discusses the implementation that has happened with the EIP program and how seamlessly things have flowed in the district. Eighty-one percent of the EIP students have improved their attendance during one year of implementation of the program. Attendance policies and protocols were developed and implemented district-wide to better meet the needs of all children. Moss believes the relationship building coupled with extensive case management provided by the truancy specialists is the single most effective strategy for decreasing habitual truancy in the school district. Student Interviews Seven students from the four school sites were interviewed for the case study of the Early Intervention Program. Students at elementary, middle and high school were represented. The interview participants consisted of three high school students, three middle school students and two elementary school students. These students were chosen because they provided additional insight for the data analyzed through the TRAIN data collection. Each student was provided a pseudonym for identity protection purposes. The study sample is representative of the students in the Early Intervention Program. Students participating in this intervention reflect the demographic ethnic population of the largely Hispanic and African American population of the Aurora Public Schools. One ofthe differences between the study sample and the EIP program is the large number of females represented in
the study. The 39 students in the EIP program are more equitably distributed gender wise. Words from the mouths of the students are included to give voice to their experiences. Friends. I like having school to come to talk to my friends and hang out with my friends. This very normal quote depicts the life of an innocent 14-year-old. Although these common words were spoken by Sherese, they neglect to explain the horrors this young lady has experienced throughout her 14 years. Molested, violated, attempted suicide, pregnant, and abandoned all describe 14-year-old Sherese's life experiences. The words "I'm a Survivor" came to mind when I recapped the information shared with me during this very candid, honest, and open interview. This young lady has a deep resolve to succeed in spite of the challenges and near death experiences she has encountered. Sherese recently gave birth to a baby boy who is now 4 months old. She speaks about him with pride. Her baby gives her inspiration to move forward each day. I observed in Sherese a resilience of someone with wisdom many years beyond 14. Sherese stated, barely above a whisper, But I really want to get good grades so that I can show people that I can do it because a lot of people were saying oh you're going to drop out soon you can't do all this, baby and school. So I want to show them that I can really do it. 122
Clearly Sherese is not your typical carefree 14-year-old African-American female high school student. She has had many school related issues on top of the personal issues she tackles daily. During eighth grade, this student participated in the EIP at South Middle School. Her truancy specialist has continued working with her through her first year of high school. Sherese has many issues which contribute to her chronic truancy. Before being placed in foster care, she had primary responsibility for taking care of her younger siblings. Oftentimes she was their sole provider and had to make sure they got off to school each morning. When asked why she was truant from school, she responded: My brothers and sisters had to go to school later than me because I know usually my mom would be sleep or she would be tired out. So I would stay there and get them ready and make sure they are at school on time make sure my sister's hair is done and everything. Then I would come back get myself ready and then go to school. By then I would be late. Sherese has been sexually abused and has experienced many losses throughout her life. Two months after her baby was born, when she was thirteen, she attempted suicide. She was placed in a mental health facility until she was stable enough to be placed in foster care. The foster mom took Sherese, her baby, and her older sister into her home. In the initial stages of the EIP, chronic absenteeism was a given for Sherese. At intake her unexcused absences and tardies totaled 140. Participation 123
in EIP has been beneficial for Sherese as there has been a 79% reduction in her unexcused absences and tardies. This change in attendance pattern is significant. Many reasons were provided for Sherese's chronic absenteeism. Unfortunately there are many home factors which contribute to her absences. This student would oftentimes encounter problems with other students in route to school. These issues would lead to Sherese being tardy. She struggles with interpersonal relationships with her peers. She says that she doesn't get along well with others. Sherese has had discipline issues in school. She has been referred to the office for fighting and received a misdemeanor. Additionally, she is currently in truancy court. Sherese had been in her new high school for one day when I did the interview. She was already dealing with peer issues in her new school. In her own words: And the drama is going on now and I have to go see my counselor after I leave you. Yes it's one person causing it because I know everybody from last year. Like everybody knows what's going on in my house because of this one person. People are coming up to me saying oh so you tried suicide or oh you have a baby. Your baby's dad is in jail. All that stuff. I had drama at school because juniors and seniors wanted to jump me. is just crazy. Despite the many challenges, the 14-year-old Sherese is determined to succeed. She has already shown herself to be a survivor. She has raised her GPA from a 1.1 to a 2.0. Her unexcused absences have decreased from 88 to 0 within two
update periods. This represents a 100% decrease. The below quote demonstrates Sherese's resolve to survive and succeed. When asked what motivates her to be successful in school she states: Well what I really thought about, I wanted to keep all of my report cards up to senior year and when my son gets in high school, show him all of my grades and tell him I want his report card to be like mine. That's what I was really thinking about, making it real for my son. Sherese is thinking like a mom. She's already figuring out how to encourage her son and make his world better than hers. She's gaining an understanding of her role as a mom. She has dreams for her child and she wants to make him proud of her and leave a legacy that involves hard work and commitment to excellence. I stay at home. I am in my bed because most of the time I am sick. seems like when I go to the hospital they aren't sure what I have. Its different things that are hurting me and I go to the doctor most of the time. They just tell me to take the pills or anything else they give me. None of it helps the pain to go away. This quote sums up Teresa's experience with chronic absenteeism. She is a 14-year-old Hispanic American Latina who has accumulated 40 unexcused absences. Teresa frequently complains that she is too ill to attend school. She has reported illness due to eye problems, chronic migraines, and ear infections. She describes her pain as being unbearable. Teresa's migraines are self-reported 125
and keep her bedridden and unable to tackle the difficult task of attending school. The school attempted countless interventions to rectify Teresa's habitual truant behavior. Initially they were unsuccessful in remedying the issues posed by this tough case. The family and school were both rendered helpless to make this teenager accountable for her attendance as she lay in bed refusing to prepare for school each day. The school used court as their last resource. Teresa was mandated to attend Magistrate Moss' truancy court. After one visit with the Magistrate, Teresa began to improve and attend school regularly. Magistrate Moss got to the bottom of Teresa's issues. Medical assistance was accessed to address her ailments. As a result of court intervention coupled with truancy specialist support, Teresa's unexcused absences have significantly declined by 75% during one semester of school. In Teresa's home the primary language spoken is Spanish. Teresa's family is uninsured and there are two adults and five children currently residing in the home. All of children in the family receive free lunch. The lack of insurance oftentimes leads to inadequate medical attention or limited home remedies to address Teresa's many ailments. Teresa's mom is a homemaker and the family members are all listed as undocumented residents. This is Teresa's second year of participation in the Early Intervention Program. She started the 126
program at South Middle School and continues participation as a freshman at Aurora Central High School. With the support of her truancy specialist, she was afforded a smooth transition from middle school to high school. Her intervention services continued without halt as she learned the culture and climate of high school. Teresa has a good relationship with her truancy specialist and believes this relationship has fostered her desire to attend school on a daily basis. Teresa says, My truancy specialist helps. He calls home and tells my parents what my grades are. In a parent/teacher conference he'll tell what's going on with me. He would always want to come and know how I was doing in school. He would like urn talk to my parents about why we were absent from school and he would say we need to come to school. At first I felt kind of weird because he was checking on me. I got to know him well. In addition to the positive relationship with her truancy specialist, Teresa has several protective factors that have been beneficial in reducing her truancy. She has a good relationship with her middle school counselor. She admits she has not yet found an adult in high school with whom she can bond. Teresa does not participate in any extracurricular activities. She was recommended and attended Aurora Public Schools fifth block of instruction during the summer of 2008. Five weeks of additional instruction proved beneficial for Teresa.
Although Teresa has not always attended school as she should, she aspires to go to college. She see's this as an opportunity to improve her life. Teresa has a very supportive family. They indicate their concern over her not feeling up to going to school. The family reports eating together at least three times weekly. Teresa's parents are becoming more involved in her education and they attend parent/teacher conferences. Additionally, the family is active in the community through their church. Teresa has this additional connection through relationships with individuals from her church. Magistrate Moss' statement below speaks to the power and impact of working together to help improve a student's attendance in school; My goal is to have everybody look at it from a very different perspective; it's not me versus you; it's not school versus family. We all need to work as a team: family, school, court, community to make this child, this individual, a success. Most of the time I'm sick and I stay at home. Urn other times my mom she is at the hospital like she works and she works in Colorado Springs and I have to stay at home with my little brother sometimes and wait for him to go to school. I send him to school or sometimes I take him to school. Yes and then whenever the babysitter doesn't come for the baby, I have to stay home with him. Elaine exhibits extreme pride for her younger siblings and she takes pride in creating a positive environment for the two boys. Elaine is a I5-year-old African American female high school student. She carries herself like a model, 128
very fashionably dressed and proud. She has three siblings, 18, 7, and 2 years old. Elaine started the Early Intervention Program at South Middle School and has been in the program for a year. Elaine receives free lunch and there are two adults and four children in the home. The primary language spoken in the home is English. School is important to Elaine. This was clear in her matter-of-fact statements about planning to go to college and making something of herself and making certain her younger siblings attends school each day. Elaine looked hopeful as she declared her desire to make something of herself. She stated, I want to be a veterinarian but then I like to design a lot of things. I also want to design and do things with magazines. Elaine has many interests for which she's not always able to take advantage. She's in the school band, but unable to attend frequently because of her responsibilities to her siblings. She admitted to taking her younger brothers to a game in order to be able to play in the band. Her friends would help her watch her younger siblings. Elaine will struggle to meet her dreams if her issues of habitual truancy are left unchecked. She was identified for the EIP after accumulating 55 unexcused absences. Intensive case management and working with the truancy specialist has made a difference for Elaine. She has received additional support
through the EIP and at subsequent updates demonstrated significant improvement with a 72% decline in her unexcused absences. When asked what led to her habitual truant behavior, Elaine provided several reasons for skipping school. Babysitting and other home responsibilities keep Elaine up late at night and make it difficult for her to get up the next morning. Getting to school on time is a major undertaking. She is often too tired to get up or she doesn't feel well. Elaine is usually influenced by her friends in making decisions regarding whether or not to attend school. She cites transportation as an issue in getting to school as well. In the morning she has to dress and feed her younger brothers. They all walk to school to drop off the older child. Elaine returns home to await the babysitter to pick up the baby. Oftentimes the babysitter is unreliable and neglects to pick up the toddler, forcing Elaine to remain at home to care for the child. Elaine reports that her older sister has chronic attendance issues as well but no one holds her accountable. She's kind oflike me. She misses a lot oftime. But they don't really get on her. It's not that they don't really care. It's just that she's already older that they don't really know what to do with her. So they aren't trying as hard to get her back in school. They don't bother. Students identified as habitually truant often site home responsibilities as contributing to truant behavior. Elaine is no different as she is responsible for 130
taking care of other children in the family. She is one of the older children and must be available to stay home with younger siblings in her parent's absences. Elaine clearly has a desire to do well in her life. She was extremely poised as she answered the questions during the interview. She is detennined to someday become a success. She realizes there are steps she must take to be a better student. Yes I like coming to schoolUrn I get to learn how to read. I like to read about grizzly bears. I urn like to learn about bears. I like animals a lot. I like their color. Jesus is clearly enthralled with bears and enjoys opportunities to share his obsession with the hairy creatures. This 10-year-old Hispanic American Latino admits enjoying school. His friends are there and he looks forward to attending. Jesus started the Early Intervention Program at Kenton Elementary and has been in the program a little over a year. He receives free lunch and lives in a home with five adults and seven children. Some of these relatives are extended family. Jesus' dad works on heavy machinery, but he is not working at this point. His grandparent works landscaping and sprinkler systems; he is also unemployed at this time. Jesus' biological mother and father were educated through the ninth grade. The primary language spoken in the home is Spanish. Jesus is on an Individual Education Plan for a perceptual/communicative disability. At just 10
years old Jesus doesn't see the connection between good school attendance and reaching future goals. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Jesus didn't bat an eyelash when he responded, "A government agent because we like kind of like manage the city and kind of take care of the government." Jesus was identified as habitually truant for accumulating 18 unexcused absences. He was identified and enrolled into the EIP. Intensive case management was provided through the truancy specialist. This student recognized how helpful the court magistrate had been in getting him back on track in school. He said, The Magistrate gives us gift cards. Sometimes she says like good job; she says like good things to us. She tells me I've been doing good in school. Last October urn she told me to write an essay about what I want to be when I grow up. She kind of like helped me a little bit and told me to write and I actually got better at writing. Attendance data on the next two updates indicates Jesus has had significant improvement in his unexcused absences. There was a decrease of 100%. Truancy is a parenting issue for elementary students. Parents must make provisions for assuring daily attendance at school. During the interview Jesus revealed the impact attending truancy court had on himself and his siblings. His family became fearful of sanctions being imposed by the court and they worked to improve their children's attendance.
Jesus indicates that when he skips schools from school, he usually goes to Mexico for a family emergency or vacation. There are no identifiable patterns for Jesus' absences from school. He has had disciplinary referrals for behavior and has served time in the In School Suspension Room. He has also received two office referrals. He is currently in truancy court. Jesus spoke lovingly about his family. Education appears to be important to the family. When Jesus gets home each day, his parents help him with his work and even provide additional assignments to help him. He says, My dad kind of helps me because he makes me read at the house. My dad makes me do multiplication and dividing. He makes me do like 10 papers. The family has committed to getting the children to school each day. With support from the truancy specialist, the family now understands the importance of being in school and on time every day: Last time the truancy specialist came to our school he talked to us about how good we've been doing. He told our mom and dad about court. Sometimes he just pulls us out of class and talks to us about our absences; and he'll say that we've been doing much better than last year. This support is making a difference in Jesus' attendance. He knows there are people who care about him and want him to do well. He has school and family to support him in being more successful in school. Jesus would like to go to college. His family is supportive of his efforts and they have family dinners at least three times per week. Jesus' parents attend parent/teacher conferences.
Jesus is very close to his relatives who share the family home. They provide a lot of support for each other. Jesus has a very close relationship with his dad and grandfather. I want to be a court judge to help with problems you know how they are on the TV shows. I like those judges on TV like Judge Judy. Rosita was pretty adamant in her plans to grow up to become a judge. This young lady has many struggles she must overcome before she can reach her goal. Although she recognized and stated the importance of her education, being in school everyday has not been a value for this student or her family. This 13year-old Hispanic American Latina student admits to enjoying South Middle School. Rosita has participated in the EIP program for one year. This family is uninsured and the children all receive free lunch. To date, there are two adults and five children living in the family home. Rosita's mother is a homemaker. Her parents and siblings are all undocumented residents from Mexico. This makes it difficult for the family to access many of the support services they need, including medical assistance. Getting to school on time is the biggest struggle faced by this student. At update she had accumulated 39 unexcused absences making her habitually truant. The school assigned a truancy specialist to Rosita to support her in 134
getting to school each day. By the third update, Rosita experienced a 100% decline in unexcused absences. This improvement is attributed to her parents and the daily case management provided by her truancy specialist. Rosita has provided several reasons for skipping schools although there are not specific patterns. Something happens at school to make Rosita want to go home. She is sometimes ill and stays at home. The family doesn't have medical insurance and Rosita can't always get the care she needs. Her parents have frequently called public health to get medical attention for the family. This student is usually at home when she skips school. Rosita has a lot of support to assist her in being successful in school. She has a caring family at home with whom she can relate. She desires to go to college. Her family has begun helping her and they eat a meal together at least three times per week. The family attends church. Her parents are married and they have lived in the area for many years, providing a stable living environment for the children. Several interventions have been recommended for Rosita. She is currentlyreceiving tutoring to assist with academic struggles. Case management has had a significant impact on her achievement. The family is also receiving support and the impact has been moderate. The truancy specialist has suggested Rosita has a mentor assigned. This is a new intervention and she is excited to begin working with this person. With the additional support and her renewed
commitment to school, Rosita is bound to recognize her dream of becoming a judge. 1 was absent and late. 1 didn't know this was a problem. When 1 had a conference my teacher and the principal used to talk to my mom and dad and when we got at the house they told me so 1 got to know that it was a problem. Maria indicates she didn't know she couldn't be absent from school unless she had a really good reason. This third grade 9-year-old Hispanic American Latina student attends Kenton Elementary School. She was really bothered when her parents chose not to take her to school. She enjoys school as indicated by her statement: 1 like reading or writing. 1 like learning things like manners and for math 1 like doing money. We get to learn about how to count more money and 1 can count at home. 1 like school. Maria frowned slightly when she talked about what happens when she has been truant and returns to school. She says, My teacher she was like kind of happy but then she got kind of like her sad face and asked me why 1 was absent. She was reading to us when she asked. 1 could tell this made Maria feel badly. This student clearly cares about keeping others happy. She said, "I told my parents to take me to school everyday." Maria indicated she must now go to school even when she is sick because she can't be absent anymore. The school nurse has to tell them they are 136
sick enough to stay home. "My parents come back to pick us up if we are sick," she stated. Maria said this has happened one time. This student has participated in the EIP for almost a year, where she receives intensive case management. There are five adults and six children in the home. The students receive free lunch and they are uninsured. The education level of Maria's biological mother is ninth grade and her dad attended some high school. The family lives in the basement of the father's parents' home. There is also an aunt who lives with the grandparents. Maria's family didn't really know about compulsory attendance laws and that she needed to be in school. They learned about this expectation after she and her brother were assigned to the EIP. She was identified as habitually truant due to her 18 unexcused absences. Several reasons were provided for skipping school. Among the reasons provided are family emergencies out of state, family vacations in Mexico and things happening at home in the morning. Maria has not had any discipline concerns. Her truancy specialist started checking on her and the other kids in the family. Maria said, "At first when I was late a lot I missed and sometimes I was behind on stuff. When the truancy specialist talked to me I started to get to school more early and get my work done." She got better grades because she'd been doing her work on time.
The intensive case management was extremely beneficial for Maria. Her unexcused absences decreased by 100% on subsequent updates. I like going to see the judge. She isn't mean or screaming. She takes everything serious but she says it nicely. Angel made it very clear that she likes to be treated with respect. She admitted she can take feedback and criticism, but it must be given with kindness. Although this young lady was full of excitement throughout her interview, it was at times difficult to get responses from her. One would never guess she had buried her father within the last two weeks. With very little emotion Angel indicated that her dad's death was her reason for being unavailable to meet with me prior to today. Angel shows very little affect towards the death of her father or her sometimes dismal family life situation. This middle school student is frequently habitually truant from school. She admitted to having difficulty with morning routines. When asked if she could change something about school, she loudly stated, "having to get up so early." She didn't entertain the suggestion made by me that perhaps she should go to bed earlier. In spite of having to get up early Angel said, "It's worth it to get up early because I like to see my friends in school and math and reading are okay too." 138
Angel admits to waking up in the middle of the night to inform her mom that she doesn't feel like going to school the next day. This plan had worked just fine until Angel found herself before Magistrate Moss trying to explain her 62 unexcused absences at the initial intake. When asked why she didn't want to come to school Angel said, My dad just passed away and I just don't feel like going to school. Sometimes I stay home sick. I have fever and I catch a lot of colds. I have 3 sisters and one brother and they stay home sometimes too. Since intake this student has improved her attendance by 89%. She indicated that going before the magistrate has made a big difference in her attendance. Her counselor and the truancy specialist also encourage her to attend school regularly. My counselor Ms. Smith gives me encouragement to come to school. She told me it is better for me to come to school and go to the nurse. I can go home if the nurse say's I'm not feeling well. I kept missing a lot of days so now I have to come anyway. Angel is starting to feel much better and she says she now understands the importance of coming to school. When asked what does she wants to be, she said, A lawyer because they help a whole lot of people and I like arguing back and forth and trying to convince people to see my way. 139
She understands that becoming lawyer is impossible without her education. She shared that her family is starting to care about her education since they got into court. The below was shared, My mom gives me a lot of examples. I have a sister who is only 21 and has 2 kids already. My mom tells me she doesn't want me to ruin my life too. My brother used to tell me that I am dumb for not coming to school. He wants me to get an education. This EIP student is showing a renewed commitment to school. She said, "I didn't like coming to school, but it has gotten better." She is no longer having problems getting along with her peers. At the beginning of the school year she had so many problems fighting and arguing with other students. She admitted that these issues sometimes kept her absent 2-3 times each week. She spoke with conviction when she said, "Now I am here everyday and I will become a lawyer and make a lot of money." I saw a true warrior in this fatherless child who has committed herself to improve her attendance and grades in order to realize her dream of becoming a judge. Protective and Risk Factors Truant students have a number of protective and risk factors that increase the likelihood of successes or challenges in school. The more protective factors a student has, the more likely they are to overcome barriers in school. Protective Factors include items such as the following: (a) caring adult
at school, (b) extracurricular activities, (c) expect to attend college, (d) family dinners, (e) parent involvement, (f) participation in the community. Risk factors are identified areas in which children are adverse conditions present in a students' life .. These factors contribute adversely to student success in school. Over 75% of the EIP students have at least one risk factor. Table 4.5 below presents summarized visual representation of the protective and risk factor for the students profiled in this section. Table 4.5 Student Participant Profiles Protective factors are resiliency attributes in the student's life. Attendance improvement indicates whether students' attendance progressed during participation in the Early Intervention Program. Achievement improvement indicates students' academic progress during participation in the Early Intervention Program. Risk Factors: Identified areas in which students are struggling. Risk Factors are identified for the following Academic Achievement (AA), Chronic Health (CH), Changes in Residence (CR), Living Situation (LS), Family Stressors (FS), and Transportation (T).
Table 4.5, cont. Student Participant Profiles Protective Attendance(A) Student Ethnicity Gender Factors Risk Factors Achievement (GPA) Sherese AA F Adult, College, Pregnant, UAB--from SS, 24, 9th Grade Family Dinner, Chronic Support of Health, Tardies--52,7, II Grandmother, Bullied, Loss, Excused AbsencesFoster Mom Family Issues -70, SO, I GPA--1.l,2.0 Teresa HISP F Adult,Extra Chronic UAB--from 40, 13, 9th Grade Curricular HealthI College, Family migraines Tardies--3, 0, 4 Dinner Changes in Excused Absences, Parent Support, Residence 46,5,5 Community GPA--2.2 -2.4 Involvement Elaine AA F Extra CurricularProblematic UAB--from 55, 0, 9th Grade Band Behavior 4 CollegeYes LossDivorce Tardies--17,I,S Changes in Excused Absencesresidence -74,IO,S Transportation GPA--2.0, 2.0, 2.2 Jesus HISP M Adult, College, Academic UAB--from IS, 0, 5th Grade Family Dinner, Achievement Parent Support Tardies--6, I, Excused--36, 2, GPA--.77, .77 Rosita HISP F Adult, College, Academic UAB--from 39, 4, 7th Grade Family Dinner, Achievement, Parent Support Behavior, Tardies--S, 2, 3 Peers, Loss, Excused AbsencesFamily -4S, 3, 5 Stressors GPA--1.9, I.S, 2.S Maria HISP F Adult, College, Academic UAB--from IS, 0, 4th Grade Family Dinner, Achievement Parent Support Tardies--6, 0, 3 Excused Absences--36,2, GPA--2.5,2.5 Angel HISP F Adult, College, Chronic UAB--from 62, 5, Sth Grade Family Dinner, Health, Lack 11 Community of medical Tardies--12, 1,6 Involvement, insurance, Excused--34, 0, 25 Loving Family, Family GPA--3.7,2.7 Stable Stressors Environment 142
Themes Emerging from Interviews Interviews were employed to gain information regarding students' experiences in the Early Intervention Program to gain an understanding about the services available to assist them with their truancy issues. Seven students were chosen for interviews after their TRAIN data was reviewed. The truancy court magistrate in charge of truancy cases was also interviewed. The seven students were a sample from the four participating Early Intervention Program sites. The interviews produced 65 pages of transcribed data discussing the EIP program from the students' and Magistrate's perspectives. I analyzed each of the interviews independently to gain a clearer understanding of the subjects' perceptions of the EIP program. The Constant Comparative Analysis Process was employed to code the data line by line (Miles Huberman, 1994). Similar themes emerged from the individual student and magistrate interviews. The interview data generated three themes which will be expounded upon in this section. The themes revealed were: (a) common reasons for truant behavior, (b) students still dream of success and (c) caring and supportive adults are needed to speak up for truant youth. The themes that emerge from the voices of our participants are powerful and speak to the necessity of collaboration among all stakeholders. The words used in discussing the themes are those of the participants. Additional information is also captured from the interview format I used. 143
The first theme to emerge from the data collected in interviews was common reasons for truancy. It is important to hear why students are truant from school in order to learn how to better provide support. Students sited illness as the cause of their truant behavior in six of the interviews. They were all convinced that this was a legitimate reason for staying at home from school. When asked what they do when they are home the answers varied from "I stay in bed to I spend time at my uncle's house." Most of these illnesses are self reported and students rarely rely on the hospital to address their ailments. Rosita said, "We all stay at home when one of us is sick and sometimes we go somewhere." This student indicated that the judge said they couldn't all stay at home anymore. Their mother is doing a better job of getting them all to school. "I stay home when I'm uh weak. When I start feeling better I help with chores or get on the computer." There is very little accountability for the student participants when they stay at home ill. They are not required to demonstrate real symptoms when they tell their parents they are not feeling well. Initially they spend time in bed, but many of them admitted to spending their day participating in various activities. Maria said, "I stay in bed because I am sick. I then read books and sometimes I go outside and play and after I finish reading I watch TV for a little bit and I go eat.
Teresa spends a lot of time at home due to illness. She says, "I stay at home. I am in my bed because most of the time I am sick." Sometimes Teresa gets to go to the hospital but they can't figure out what's wrong with her. "They just tell me to take the pills or anything else they give me." Even when Teresa doesn't go to the doctor, she still stays at home when she tells her mom she doesn't feel well. The quotes outlined below supports the illness theme as a common reason for truancy. These words represent detailed responses provided by students regarding their illnesses. Sherese: I don't always feel well. Urn like cause my little brother and sister and they have the same time at school and its kind of hard for my mom to take them and take me. I end up being late to school because of this. But most of the time I get here on time. I'm usually at home ill or taking care of my sick baby. Jesus: Last time I didn't come to school I came to the office and I told them that I was sick and they took my temperature and told me that I really was sick and I couldn't be there. My mom told me to come to school and tell the office and she knew that I was sick. My mom wanted to make sure that the school knows why we are absent and that we really are sick. Rosita: No sometimes I like I just didn't want to come to school and I didn't come. Urn I'm kind of sick right now but it's getting better. Yes I have the flu. I catch a lot of colds. Once somebody catches a cold like all of them catch it. Everyone ends up catching the cold. Like right now both my little brother is sick and my little sister. 145
Student illnesses are sometimes connected with adult responsibilities. Truant students often have to assist the family and their obligations are usually great. These added responsibilities get in the way ofthem coming to school. During the interviews students revealed that many times they must remain at home to take care of siblings. Usually the siblings are much younger and can't be left alone. Elaine says, "Sometimes my mom is at the hospital where she works in Colorado Springs. I have to stay at home with my little brothers and take him to school. come back home and wait for the babysitter to pick up the baby." Elaine admitted that sometimes the babysitter doesn't come and she must stay at home to take care of her baby brother. Her routine restarts in the evening when she picks both children up, prepares dinner, helps with homework, puts them to bed, and begins her own homework. These are major responsibilities for a 14-year-old, but Elaine says she wishes for a better life for her little brothers so she doesn't mind taking care of them so much. Fourteen year-old Teresa tells a similar story. She says, "I'm not always sick when I'm truant. My mom doesn't want the school to know that I must take care of my 2 year old baby sister. We need my mom to work. This is how she takes care of us." Truant students with adult responsibilities like caring for younger siblings take this expectation very seriously. They don't generally question
these duties until the Magistrate or someone in school stresses that they must be at school. has become normal for them to care for siblings in the parent's absence. Elaine admitted to being "happy that the magistrate made my mom take care of the work problems." This freed her from the guilt she felt for not helping out with her younger siblings. At the same time, it helped mom to step up and be the parent instead of keeping her daughter home to care for the other children. Elaine admits the situation is not perfect, but it is better and she has drastically improved her truant behavior. Magistrate Moss has gone on record about the common reasons students are truant. She believes in every student and identifies education as the "equalizer." Advocacy is extremely important for habitually truant youth. These students need someone who understands their situations and will support them in attending school. Magistrate Moss' quote below summarizes these themes. We all need to work together to help kids become successful. That's one of my main goals to figure out what set of dynamics is going to work and who can help fix the situation once we determine the underlying cause or reasons for the truant behavior. Truancy is a symptom. The truancy specialists fill that unique role in that they are an arm of the court. Or the parent, I've also seen the parent align with the court and be the hard and heavy. With everyone being fluidly involved with the process and regular accountability i.e., regular reviews in court or preferably the case doesn't have to go to court ..... holding everyone accountable to do exactly what I tell them to do. That's why the most successful truancy reduction programs
are those in which the courts and the school based reduction programs work together. Every child deserves to graduate from high school. 2: "Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that caIUlot fly" (Hughes, 1824, p.15). Truant students have grave difficulty holding on to and realizing their dreams. Attending school regularly and getting good grades is the best indicator of whether or not students will achieve their dreams. Truant students generally struggle with being in school and many of them have achievement scores that support their lack of attendance. This is evident in the number of unexcused absences, tardies, and excused absences habitually truant students had listed at intake in the TRAIN database. Table 4.5 provides attendance information on these students. Students shared that people think they are worthless. I did not see any indication of worthlessness in the student I interviewed. I did however see a discoIUlection between school attendance and reaching their dreams. The truant students did not have a clear understanding about how the preparation they receive today determines their ability to go to college and ultimately their success in postsecondary opportunities. Students were adamant in their expressions regarding their goals and future aspirations. Most people think students are truant from school because they dislike attending. During the interviews, students frequently stressed their desire to
attend school. They enjoy being where their friends are and they appear to appreciate the support they receive from their peers and the adults in school. School provides a social outlet for most students and this support and conversation makes school worthwhile for many of our toughest students. In many instances, students have to motivate themselves because education is not always a priority for all family members. The EIP students dream of going to college and creating a positive life for themselves. Students have aspirations of great careers when they are adults. All students interviewed indicated a desire to go to college in spite of the challenges they face each day. Their faces took on a glow when they indicated their desire to further their education. Elaine states, "I know I need to go to college to be a fashion designer. I dream of having a fashion design company." Sherese looks forward to helping others as a social worker. She reminisced about the kind social worker who helped her when she was in a mental institution. She said, "I want to help people they way my mentor helped me." The complete responses from several of the students regarding attending college are below in their own words. The counselor has me do like internship things like for college. He has me doing different computer programs that help me decide what I want to be when I grow up. He helps me find jobs and stuff. I like when I think about my future. He's showing me where to go to find out about these things.
Rosita: I want to be a judge. I know that I have to go to school everyday and then go to college to become a judge. When I talked to Magistrate Moss, I told her I wanted to be a judge and she asked me what college I want to go to. Students shared this belief statement in several ways during the interviews. These students have been socialized to believe that they are bad. Most of the reinforcement they receive is negative. They are constantly questioned about their truant behavior. Clearly these children desire to do the right thing and they all indicated interest in having a career. They had strong beliefs about what they wanted to be as adults. Several had already chosen college majors. Yes its' on me to get to school. I realize for myself that I can't always have excuses. I need to come to school and that's that. Another twist was added to Elaine's belief that people believe she is worthless. She indicated that people at school believe her eighteen-year-old sister is even more worthless. Although Elaine receives encouragement to come to school, her older sister is not made to attend school. Elaine said, My sister is kind of like me because she also misses a lot of time. But they don't really like care. Maybe it's not that they don't really care. It's just that she's already older that they don't really know what to do with her. They can't send her to court. So they aren't trying as hard to get her back in school. They don't bother. Sherese also shares that she frequently feels worthless in school. This is 150
reiterated in her feelings that she can't talk to her teachers anymore because "Deep down they are going to think badly about me like I'm dumb or something because I don't come to school." I just feel really kind of put down when they say these things or think this about me. Teresa believes that teachers make kids feel worthless when they "judge the kids and don't try to actually get to know them and maybe that's why they don't want to come to school. They feel like the teachers are just going to put them down and treat them like they are no good or anything." Students are not expecting homework when they approach Magistrate Moss' courtroom for the first time. After meeting a student and talking with them to gain background infonnation, the magistrate assigns an essay, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This essay is due at the next court data. Magistrate Moss reads every essay and she creates an individualized plan based on students' interest identified in the essay. She refers to this task as "creating relevancy in the students" world. This essay also becomes the foundation for building a positive relationship between courts and schools. Most students reveal their plans to attend college or pursue careers in their essays. Magistrate Moss gives credence to the students' desire to further their education. She says, They want to go to college but they have no clue; the relevance isn't there and they don't recognize that it actually starts everyday so it's creating that expectation
from a school and a court if it isn't already in place in the home. Truant students can't always see the connection between school attendance, academic achievement, and ultimately reaching their future goals. Truant students generally struggle with school attendance as revealed in the attendance data collected through TRAIN. The truancy court magistrate mirrored many of the same conversations shared by students regarding the theme of feeling worthless among students. The Magistrate emphatically states, "These students are not failures." Unfortunately they are oftentimes in bad situations and the support is not in place to address the underlying issues in the child's life. In her own words, the magistrate says, These students are not worthless. Certainly cultural education is huge in terms of intervention. I see over and over a lot of cultural issues where education was not valued by a parent or parents for any particular reason. This creates a pattern of educational neglect and sometimes really is educational ignorance. Sometimes parents just don't know the value of education. The magistrate further shares, "we must do everything within our power to care about the kids in our communities and encourage them to be as successful as they can be. We want to make them successful citizens and we don't want them in jail. cost us $37K to $40K to incarcerate and then 152
remediate a convicted felon. If you look at the statistics 90% of convicted felons didn't graduate from high school (Heilbrunn, 2004). Moss stated vehemently "kids are not worthless and should be treated respectfully as individuals." 3: The third theme dealt with the importance of students having caring and supportive adults. This was a dominant theme in the interviews. Students identified several individuals, both in and out of school, who fit the criteria of caring and supportive. Students indicated they believe their teachers want them in school. Their teachers are supportive ofthem and they show concern when students return to school after being absent. Teachers demonstrate they care in a variety of ways and students observe the attitude these individuals display towards them. These students cited specific examples of teachers assisting them in a variety of ways with missing assignments. Teachers would provide tutoring or encourage students to work with other classmates to get assignments completed. Elaine says, "The teacher doesn't mind helping me or having my friends help me. She actually likes that and encourages the kids to work together in the classroom. She cares about all of us". Sherese feels that her teacher goes out of his way to try to help her. My math teacher helps me a lot because math is where I need help. He tells me to come in the morning. I can make up work in the extra time. He can explain the math to me
and I get it. This helps me a lot and makes me want to come to school. The six students interviewed indicated the importance of having caring and supportive teachers. Some of their personal experiences are shared below in their own words. Rosita, Angel, and Maria said: Rosita: Teachers should get more personal with kids, know them better and build relationships with them. You can tell when teachers like their job. They seem happy and they want you to be in school. Angel: Like when you're doing something in class and you get stuck on something and you just tell the teacher. The teacher will help you out. If you need like more extra help just come after school and she'll help you out. I like coming to school and being able to get the extra help from the people at school. My teachers seem happy to have me back and they welcome me back. They ask me why I've been gone. Yes. I get help with my work. The lady in the office helps me because I trust her and she sometimes helps me with reading and writing. Maria: I like it when my teachers give me individual attention. When they come around in the class and ask me how I'm doing. This make me want to do the work. Some of the teachers will say come and see me later because they can't stop and help me catch up on the work from when I was absent. Caring and supportive adults extend beyond the classroom setting. Throughout the interviews, students identified other individuals who have had significant impact in their lives. The truancy specialists were mentioned time after time as a caring adult in the lives of habitual truants. These children have 154
clearly made a connection with the truancy specialist. Most of them didn't blink an eyelash when asked what individual has the greatest impact on their attendance. Prior to this resource being available, these habitually truant students were floundering in their attendance. There has been amazing attendance improvement for most ofthe students now receiving the support of a truancy specialist. These students can count on at least having one person responsible for frequently checking in with them and their families. The stories these students tell regarding the intensive case management provided by the truancy specialists speaks volumes regarding the importance of relationship based approaches. Elaine says her truancy specialist would call her home and tell her parents what her grades were. She said "he would ask a lot of questions and tell me I had to be in school. He always reminds me of my dreams and goals. This makes me want to get back on track." Elaine admits she wasn't always comfortable with the truancy specialist asking so many questions. She said, "At first I felt kind of weird, like he was prying, because he was checking on me but then I got to know him well." The truancy specialist has helped Elaine's family get many different services to make it easier for the children to attend school each day. Case management is a major component of the EIP program. Ensuring that truant students receive intensive case management is the primary responsibility of the truancy specialists. They have the responsibility of 155
developing an individualized plan to address attendance, achievement, family, social and/or mental health concerns. The specialists have many resources they can pull from in order to ensure the student receives the necessary supports for success in school. Following are the students' comments regarding the support they received from the truancy specialists. The truancy specialist checks on me every single day to make sure I come to school. He even checks on me when he sees that I'm having trouble with my grades. He'll call my mom and tell my mom I'm not doing well in school. The truancy specialists are not always in a position to give parents the answers they want to hear. Telling a family they must go to court is difficult and will certainly pose inconvenience to parents. The truancy specialists must deliver these messages while supporting the student and providing strategies to help the child be successful. The student stories indicate the specialists are able, in many instances, to bridge the gap between families and court. Court becomes viewed as a means to get additional assistance for the families. Oftentimes the truancy specialists will use court as leverage to encourage good attendance and compliance with school attendance policies. In the below statements Rosita, Laura, and Sherese discuss conversations with the truancy specialist about court. They said, The truancy specialist gives us all of the infonnation we need. Like when it's court she warns us not just like 2 hours before but like days and weeks and then
she'll like tell us every time. She meets with us at school. Like with my parents she just calls them on the phone. The truancy specialist keeps up with my absences and ifI've been tardy or absent he just tells me that I am going to keep having to go to court and he tells me not to miss anymore days. He reminds me that I don't want to have to go to court. This makes me keep coming to school. Sherese: The truancy specialist was the best person to help me improve my attendance. I wanted to get out of court. So well my truancy specialist was telling me if I would come and get good grades then when I see the judge I could get out of truancy court faster and it won't be as long as she planned it to be. The last time I saw the magistrate she was so proud of me and she dismissed my case. I don't have to see her anymore. Elaine admits to being afraid and somewhat uncertain of the truancy specialist when she first met her. The specialist was very nice but Elaine didn't really like her coming to their house. Her truancy specialist really became involved in her life. She said in the end the truancy specialist helped her mom to get more involved with getting the kids to school. Truancy is not just a school issue. Collaboration is necessary to address this societal problem. All stakeholders must assist in order to effectively reengage habitually truant students in school. The court magistrate, parents, and counselors were just a few of the individuals students identified as caring and supportive adults. The below statements identify key adults helping these truant students. Angel, Teresa and Rosita said, 157
Angel: My mom and the court lady all helped me to do better and come to school each day. The court lady convinces my mom to make us get up for school. She scares us a little bit when she talks about the consequences we can get ifmy mom doesn't get us to school. Teresa: The magistrate said you have to come to school. She said that you have to come to school to get an education. I told her that I want to be a judge too and urn like she told us like if we didn't go to school we wouldn't be able to meet our goals. Rosita: Igo to counselors and teachers to get tutoring. just depends on what you need help with. Sherese admitted to having support at home through the loving guidance of her foster mom. Being assigned to her custodial guardian has helped this 14year-old change her life dramatically. She speaks fondly of this person she affectionately calls, "My mom." This caring adult helps her get up on time every morning. Sherese says, "She wakes me up really, really early. Instead of being late to school, I get there early. This is after Sherese has taken care of her young baby. She is learning how to make preparations at night to help make the mornings flow. Getting clothes ready and flat ironing her hair at night helps the morning go smoothly as well according to this student. Sherese is especially appreciative of the advocacy this new role model provides. Sherese says, "Like if I have a problem with school she'll come and help me. Ifl have a big problem at the school, she'll come up to the school and talk to them until the problem goes away." She quietly states, "I never had that
help before with my real mom." Laura and Anthony also provides examples of supportive adults in their lives, Rosita: The judge is nice. She makes you want to get better like when people tell me to do stuff that I don't want to do I just like blow it off. The judge makes you really like want to go to school, get good grades. She's nice and she gives out prizes. She makes you think about your life. Jesus: My dad helps me. Teachers here at Kenton talk to my mom and dad. When I come home my dad will talk about school to me. He says that the teacher says I was late, things about being late. Urn if I'm at breakfast try to eat a little bit fast so I won't be late. Caring adults advocate for children and this is an important aspect of caring about students. Everyday we have individuals in schools speaking on behalf of students who cannot always find a voice for themselves in the bureaucracy of public schools. These students do not generally have an adult who can come to school to assist them in areas that they are struggling. Truant students struggle with appropriate relationships in school. Oftentimes they do not have an adult with whom they can relate. Few individuals at school are the voice for truant students. Over and over students in the Early Intervention Program talked about the positive impact ofthe truancy specialists on their attendance and achievement in school. These students were held accountable by the truancy specialist. This person checked in with them a few times per week to ensure the student was attending school and completing all assignments. Students frequently talked about the importance of 159
advocacy in rectifying truancy. In this case, advocacy refers to the support provided by the truancy specialist. In order to rectify issues of students, these students need caring and supportive adults who will assist them and be their voice. These students do not know the system and they need someone who can get them the services and supports necessary to be successful in school. Response to Research Questions The first components of the research consisted of looking at quantitative and qualitative data in regards to the research questions asked. The second part of this work entails reviewing the degree to which the EIP meets its goals. Evaluative case studies allow for judgments about the program's effectiveness. This study employed evaluative case study techniques as the lens for understanding the EIP in APS. I asked a set of specific questions during the interviews as part of the evaluation of the Early Intervention Program. I am interested in determining if the data collection supports the evaluation. Responses to each of the questions are provided with an explanation of how the data findings confirm the questions. The response to the research questions indicates that the interview protocol allowed the participants to address the questions that form the basis for this research. 1. What effect does individualized support have on student attendance and achievement? 2. What interventions are successful in increasing students' attendance from the student's perspective?
3. What effect does a collaborative approach to truancy have on student attendance and achievement from the stakeholders' perspectives? What effect does individualized support have on student attendance and achievement? Three of the student interview questions addressed this research question. The questions were: Question #2: Do you get help from your truancy specialist? Question #8: What has been the most important help you have received so far in the Early Intervention Program? Question #9: Which support and/or resources have been the most helpful with the Court Magistrate/Judge? The students provided many different responses to these questions geared toward understanding the supports available to assist with truancy. All students shared that help is available to them at school either through teachers, counselors, the principal or the truancy specialist. Every student interviewed identified the support of the truancy specialist as having the greatest impact on their attendance. Unequivocally, students pointed to the support provided by the truancy specialist as the reason for the significant improvement in attendance experienced by all seven of the students interviewed. The changes made in achievement as measured by GP A were not as dramatic for the student participants although students indicated they receive help from school personnel. Students shared that the court magistrate was very
helpful and just having to go to court made them improve their attendance. Students felt supported by the praise and incentives provided by the magistrate. The concern exhibited by the court and the services the court mandated were both helpful to the students. What interventions are successful in increasing students' attendance? Two of the student interview questions addressed this research question. The questions were: Questions #5: What lind of help does the school provide for you and your family? Question #8: What has been the most important help you have received so far in the Early Intervention Program? In response to both of these questions, students once again made it clear that the support received by their truancy specialist is the greatest intervention for improving attendance In both of these questions, students shared that they receive assistance from their teachers when they return to school after being truant and this is the most important intervention in helping them with their school work. Teachers intervene in a variety of ways. Tutoring is provided after school or teachers provide individualized assistance in class students shared. Two court magistrate interview questions addressed research question number two. The questions were: Question #3: Which interventions do you consider to be most useful in working with habitually truant youth? 162
Question #5: How do you detennine the effectiveness of the interventions issued from the court? The magistrate spoke in great detail to the benefit of a relationship based intensive case management process. Magistrate Moss referred to the truancy specialists as phenomenal and attributes their work to the success of the EIP. She indicated that the other interventions support the work of the truancy specialists. She believes they are worth the funds allocated to pay salaries and that by addressing truancy we save millions in taxpayer dollars over the life of the program. In regard to Question 5, Magistrate Moss shared that she is not in the business of program evaluation but she is aware that the TRAIN tool is used to evaluate program effectiveness. The magistrate indicated that she is willing to try just about any intervention but that every case is individual. She believes it is important to create individualized support for every student. At her updates, she has an opportunity to detennine if the interventions assigned to students are effective. Magistrate Moss stated that the greatest improvement is seen in attendance, and achievement is addressed when students are matched with the interventions that have the greatest impact of addressing their individual needs. Two of the student interview questions addressed this research question. The questions were: Questions #5: What kind of help does the school provide for you and your family? 163
Question #8: What has been the most important help you have received so far in the Early Intervention Program? What effect does a collaborative approach to truancy have on student attendance and achievement from the stakeholders' perspecti ves? Questions number six and eleven discussed the ways in which a collaborative approach impacts student attendance and achievement. The stakeholder in this instance is the court magistrate who has some responsibility for court mandating many of these interventions. The questions were: Question #6: I understand the EIP is a collaborative approach among stakeholders. Who are the collaborators with APS on this project? Question #11: In a perfect world, what is the best way to support habitually truant students? Describe what schools, families, courts and students would do. The court magistrate frequently referenced the power of collaboration through out her interview. She discussed how the EIP program is successful because of the community partnerships the district and courts have sought to support truant students. Table 4.6 identifies some of the specific comments made by Magistrate Moss in support of a collaborative approach to addressing truancy.
Supporting court magistrate interview quotes Interventions It's hard to say which interventions are most important because every case is so incredibly unique; that's why quite frankly the more options, choices, resources we have, the more creative we can all be as team members. Interventions, certainly the mental health piece is huge. When I'm dealing with a lot of the older kids the adolescents, I see a lot of family conflict. is not necessarily to the point where the parents or the kids are being physically violent towards each other but it's leading up to that; it's clearly a parent child conflict with adolescents and dependence issues versus parents wanting to be the advocate for their child and see to it that their child gets an education. We also have a large number of children who have pretty serious mental health issues that have gone undiagnosed. Kids with bipolar issues and sometimes major depression. We know as adults those sorts of things can be totally debilitative. I mean for an adult; imagine being a child in that sort of situation. Mental health interventions are extremely important. I think that's probably one of the most important interventions. Certainly the truancy specialists are way up there in terms of effective interventions. That's a resource that's an absolute must in a program such as this. Unfortunately a lot of these truants have gotten lost in the system. The truancy specialist is part of the key and the link between the schools, courts, communities and families. They allow these kids to succeed. We limit it so they only have a docket of 20-25 families at a time so they can really focus energies on the more challenging families. My goal certainly is to maximize the opportunities for every child to be successful in their own horne base and environment.
Supporting court magistrate interview quotes Collaboration Stakeholders Mentoring and tutoring are great resources. Once you have a student in school you're talking about remediation and you are also talking about relationship strengths-based programming. I've seen it over and over. If you can get a young person to identify with a key mentor in his or her life that's all he or she needs to succeed and it takes one person, just one person and those of us who have done mentoring know how rewarding that can be. I mentored a young girl named Sam who was on a very dangerous path of destruction. She is now in college and has totally turned her life around. As this program advances I'd like to get some more mentors involved, maybe some community college professionals or people who are studying psychology or sociology something of that nature; mentoring can be very big. Casa is a huge resource for us; they've donated incentives and provided volunteer advocacy. When you have volunteer advocacy on the not so challenging kids, this allows truancy specialists to be freed up to focus more on prevention components before kids end up in truancy court; they can also work on the more challenging cases. The Department of Social Services is one of our partners. Certainly this is an excellent resource and intervention to have. Drug and alcohol counselors although I'm not seeing as much substance abuse as I thought I would up here. I think the schools are identifying a lot of those issues earlier but that's obviously a necessary resource. The Juvenile Assessment Center is also a great stakeholder and resource for us because they combine mental health assessments in getting to the root cause of issues.
The qualitative data analysis complements some of the findings from the quantitative data analysis. The analysis reveals that the Early Intervention Program has clear components to support truant students Student interviews provided data to support the importance of implementing interventions to support truant students with attendance and achievement. APS and the Arapahoe County 18th Judicial Courts have clearly created a truancy reduction program that deals with truancy very proactively and swiftly provides consequences for all perpetrators. The document review revealed strongly defined processes which support the program and serves as an accountability measure for the program
CHAPTER V DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS As this study has demonstrated, truancy is a significant issue in the Aurora Public Schools. The Early Intervention Program was born out of this challenge. Gay (2000, pp. 251) states, "Intention without action is insufficient." The EIP program has been an attempt to take action and aggressively address a grave problem in one school district. This case study explored practices and procedures of the Early Intervention Program to address truancy in Aurora Public Schools. In this case study, I explored truancy from the standpoint of it being a symptom of greater risk factors in a student's life. Students who continue through life without having issues of truancy diagnosed are doomed to a life of failure and disappointment. Garry 1997 shares Truancy may be the beginning of a lifetime of problems for students who routinely skip school. Because these students fall behind in their school work many drop out of school. Dropping out is easier than catching up (Garry, 1997 pp. 3). Students are missing out on educational opportunities daily. This study gives voice to habitually truant youth by setting out to understand the extent of the truancy problems for the students. Academic performance and attendance were analyzed to determine if improvement had been made. The findings of this study speak to the need
for all stakeholders to take on this societal challenge to ensure every student an opportunity to access a quality education. Chapter five includes an interpretation of the findings, a review of the goals of the study to determine if the research questions are answered, and a reflection on the relevancy of the study. Additionally, this chapter presents the limitations of the study, recommendations for educators, courts, and parents and suggestions for further research. Interpretation and Discussion of Findings In order to discuss and align the key findings, it is important to identify the purpose of the study and review the guiding research questions. The multidimensionality of the student was addressed to better understand the issues of truancy. The primary purpose of the case study was to examine the interventions implemented in collaboration with the court and the Aurora Public Schools. Ultimately, this case study demonstrated any impact on student attendance and achievement and the role of a collaborative approach. In Chapter four, I presented a response to the three research questions: I. What effect does individualized support have on student attendance and achievement? 2. What interventions are successful in increasing students' attendance from the student's perspective? 2. What effect does a collaborative approach to truancy have on students' attendance and achievement from the stakeholders' perspecti ves? 169
In this chapter I will take the conversation deeper by discussing my interpretation of the findings. Analyzing the demographic, attendance, and achievement infonnation in TRAIN presented findings about the EIP. Pre and post attendance and achievement were run to detennine if students had demonstrated any improvement in these areas during participation in the EIP. The quantitative finding for improvement in attendance was not surprising or unusual. One would expect students to demonstrate growth and improvement in attendance under intensive case management as an intervention. The truancy specialists worked to reduce the student risk factors by meeting with them daily. Upon being assigned a case, the truancy specialist would become personally involved with the habitually truant student, siblings, and the family. The truancy specialist involvement included daily check-in sessions to ensure the student was complying with attendance expectations. If the student was absent without a valid excuse, the truancy specialist would conduct a home visit and in some instances get the student out of bed and serve as an escort to ensure the student arrives at school. Most students only required this level of intervention once and would learn from the experience and begin attending school. The truancy specialist would 170
detennine if interventions were working and find out if the student or family was in need of additional assistance. Although improvement cannot be attributed directly to participation in the EIP, it is noteworthy that students were not demonstrating improvement in attendance prior to receiving individual interventions and intensive case management. Truant students showed a dramatic improvement in their attendance according to the TRAIN data. This is a major finding of the EIP case study. Although there was significant improvement in attendance, overall student grade point averages did not indicate improvement. The achievement of EIP students decreased during the period of the study. This change could be attributed to many factors. Primarily it is difficult to impact OPA within a short period of time. I found the infonnation entered into TRAIN was not always accurate, making it difficult to monitor progress between updates. TRAIN is used for accountability purposes to track the progress of the EIP. is imperative that student data are entered correctly. Currently several individuals have the responsibility for data entry into TRAIN. It is easier to make mistakes when busy individuals who are not appropriately trained must enter data in addition to their other job responsibilities. At times there were missing updates and other pertinent infonnation. The paper copies of the infonnation had to be reviewed to correct any data entry concerns. According to Heilbrunn (2007), truant students have many risk factors that contribute to their poor attendance. Many of the factors identified in the findings were
expected, as there are usually specific reasons why students are not at school each day. The finding most concerning was the number of truant students who remain at home due to their own illness or that of their siblings. On observation, the students interviewed were healthy and did not appear to have any significant medical challenges. Yet, illness was cited most frequently as the reason for skipping school; 88% of the student participants cited illness as the major reason for being absent from school. Laura says, "I am sick when 1 am absent. 1 tell my teacher this is the reason 1 wasn't at school." School personnel and the court magistrate don't always buy the sickness excuse, however. Many of the students are forced to attend school in spite of claiming illness. Jesus says, "The court lady told us we have to go to school when we are sick. The nurse takes our temperature and we go back home if we are sick." Attendance gains are greatly increased when habitual truancy is addressed at its onset. is far easier to correct 10 days of unexcused absence than to make improvement when a student has accumulated 82 days of unexcused absences. Magistrate Moss alludes to this finding when she says, We want to work with students at the earliest stage possible. There's not a whole heck of a lot I can do with the example that I gave you of the 16-year-old who's had a 115 absences. Okay the intervention efforts just will not be successful. You need to be doing as much strengths-based early intervention in the schools at the earliest stages possible if you need it. We must impart to the families the value of education when the problem first begins. We must say that the courts and schools are serious and that we care about every child and want them all to succeed.
The qualitative data collection consisted of interviews of students and the truancy court magistrate and a review of the EIP documents. There were several significant qualitative findings that left me better infonned about the value of the EIP. The stories the students shared about their journeys were emotional, thought provoking, and oftentimes raw. I received the unedited version of the tangled lives of children too often left to fend for themselves and make in a world not always understanding of their plight. As I wrapped up after each interviews, I found myself grappling with myself and feeling an urgency to do something immediately. I'd ask myself what I could do to make a difference. At times I felt distraught and wanted to swoop down and rescue these children from horrors that no boy or girl should ever experience. The gift cards I left behind, upon completing the interview, did not put a dent in the economical and social realities of these youngsters, albeit, they were gracious and pleasantly surprised to receive a gift that clearly provided a respite from the lives to which they would return at the end of the school day. Throughout the student interviews, it became apparent that truant students require significant adult support in the educational arena. Intensive case management builds strong supportive relationships and provides one mechanism for students to receive daily encouragement and individualized assistance. Truant students lack the ability to make improvement alone. The extensive number of absences revealed at intake magnifies the extent of the attendance difficulties. When asked what
intervention had impacted their attendance most, 100% of the students indicated the support of their truancy specialist, teachers, court magistrate, and school counselor was most valuable. This lends ear to the necessity of having supportive individuals inside and outside ofthe school setting. Sherese said, "I look forward to seeing Mr. 1, my truancy specialist, each day. He has really helped me out a whole lot and he talks to my teachers when I'm having trouble. He helped me to change schools to live closer to my foster mom." is apparent that truant students need someone to support them and assist with navigating school. All participants spoke to the value of parents in truancy prevention. The EIP documents have an entire protocol devoted to parent engagement and community involvement. This is a key component in truancy reduction efforts. The community attendance review board meetings are held to have conversations with the parent about the supports necessary to get truant students reengaged in school. The parent is the child's first teacher; parents almost always want what is best for their child. Unfortunately, they don't always know the best strategies to help the child be successful in school. Many of the EIP students had parents who had not completed high school. Magistrate Moss states, Many of the parents we see in court are not educated and were not taught to value education. Therefore, we must help them to understand the importance of education and give them the support they need to get their child in school. I don't care about a person's background. I just want to know who can help the child be in school on time each day. 174
Schools are usually welcoming places for students. Students admitted their teachers are happy for them to return to school. Students are allowed to make up all missing assignments upon returning to school. Truant students generally want to please adults and they feel badly when their teachers believe they are worthless because they skip school. Addressing truancy requires a multidimensional approach. Getting students to school is just one piece of the puzzle. Reengaging students must happen in the classroom and it takes the teacher away from the students who attend daily. Unfortunately, academics cannot be addressed until the student returns to school. All too often, when truants return, they are so far behind the teacher is unsure how to best meet their needs. Oftentimes the rest of the class has moved on and catching truant students up can be an academic challenge. Students admitted that teachers tackle this challenge in multiple ways. The student responses are listed below. Jesus: My teacher puts my work in a special folder in my desk and I have to do it for homework." Rosita: I feel bad when I get back to school because I don't always know how to do the work and I don't really want to ask the teacher. The teacher will give me my work. Maria: I always do the work I missed. My mother helps me with it when I get home. Elaine: It is my responsibility to get to school and ask for my work. It isn't the teacher's fault that I am not coming to school. 175
The courts playa critical role in addressing truancy. When all school efforts have failed, students must face finn sanctions for violating compulsory attendance laws. Surprisingly, EIP students believed the courts had been beneficial in forcing them to comply with attendance policies and laws. One would think students would feel threatened in a courtroom environment. The opposite was true and mandating a student to court was welcomed by most students. Elaine admitted, "I was glad when Magistrate Moss made my mom take care of the babysitting situation. She made my mom get us all to school." Parents were clearly impacted by attending court and students showed improvement in attendance. The possibility of having students removed from the home served as a deterrent for families. Yet the Magistrate admits, "I have only removed a child from a home if the child was in an unsafe situation and this almost never happens. 1 prefer to work with the family and get them the support they need to help the child be successful." Magistrate Moss' demeanor made parents and students feel supported when they were in her courtroom. Students looked forward to the incentives and kind words bestowed upon them for improving their attendance and/or achievement. Parents looked forward to the support they received in the form of parent education, mental health services, advice, or public assistance. Meaningful incentives for students and parents are clearly key components of truancy reduction. Additional qualitative findings include the following:
1. The EIP relies heavily on court, school and community interventions. The more interventions available, the more effective the program. We must look at the whole child in providing support to habitually truant students. Truancy reduction programs with many stakeholders are far more likely to achieve greater success. When courts, school, families and community collaborate, the chances of eradicating truancy are increased. 2. Students appreciate being held accountable for their attendance. They prefer coming to school where they can be with their friends. This is the opposite of what many might believe about these students. The younger the student, the more likely the truancy is linked to parenting issues. Magistrate Moss' says, "I've never met a kindergartner who didn't love his teacher or love coming to school. is the adult's responsibility to ensure school attendance. The qualitative key findings are consistent with the findings of several of the research studies identified in the literature review (Collins, 2001; Heilbrunn, 2003; McDonald Frey, 1999; Reimer Dimock, 2005); there are clearly components of truancy reduction programs that have been effective in reducing student absences. The findings ofthis study indicate that addressing truancy utilizing multiple collaborators has been beneficial in reducing attendance concerns. In particular, programs that encourage school and court involvement have realized some of the greatest success. The Fulton County Truancy Intervention Project was developed in 1991 by Judge Glenda Hatchett and Terry Walsh. The primary purpose ofthis program is to provide early intervention with truant students. Private sectors partnered with the courts to coordinate the efforts of the truancy project. Volunteers including attorneys were trained to assist in finding and implementing community resources to help students and families. This program has been successful in providing resources and
advocacy to families and children in Georgia to prevent school failure. This is a collaborative effort between the juvenile court system, city of Atlanta, Georgia Bar and many other community and outreach programs. This program has had a 77% success rate in improving attendance. Project Respect is another successful collaboration between the community, courts, and the Pueblo 60 school district. This program targets students who have risk factors for school disengagement, excessive absences, behavior issues, or failing grades. Community advocates provide extensive case management to meet the needs of these students. Daily meetings and weekly home visits are held. The community advocates are committed to the students and oftentimes live in the community. The advocates also attend court and continue working with the students and families until the student has demonstrated and sustained improvement in attendance and achievement. These are two examples of successful truancy reduction programs that have utilized school, community, and court support to tackle attendance concerns. Table 5.1 identifies additional truancy reduction programs which support the EIP case study qualitative findings.
Table 5 1 Truancy programs aligned with the Early Intervention Program case study qualitative findings Program Title Fulton County Truancy Intervention Project Project Respect Keeping Kids in School Families and Schools Together (FAST) Jacksonville United Against Truancy (JUAT) Dates 2002 2000 2000 1988 2000 Program Focus This program is a collaboration between the courts, attorneys, and the school. Community resources are utilized to provide interventions for truant youth This is a model truancy reduction program that focuses on a relationship based approach to address truancy. Family needs and family attachment are important components of this model truancy reduction program. The school, community, and courts work collaboratively to address truancy. Habitual truancy is addressed when the student is first identified, while the issue is still manageable This program is collaboration between the city, courts, and police department. These stakeholders are committed to addressing truancy. This is a family strengthening and parent involvement program used in schools and community to build relationships between schools and families Empowers parents to become the primary protective agents for students. This program is focused on reducing the alanning trends of truancy in our city. JUA T is a collaborative effort with members from the State Attorney's Office, Duval County Public Schools, the City of Jacksonville the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office and the Youth Crisis Center. 179
Table 5.1, cont. Truancy Programs aligned with the Early Intervention Program Project Helping Hand 1996 This is an early identification and intervention program to address truancy at the early stages in elementary school. Program increases involvement between parents, school, and community. The qualitative findings corroborate the premises of the theoretical framework. The systems presented under Broffenbrenner's ecological model were present in interviewing students in their school environment, also known as the mesosystem. Findings reveal that truant students struggle in the school meso system (Baker, Sigman Nugent, 200 1). These students have received advocacy in the form of truancy specialists to help them manipulate the school environment. The changes experienced from pre to post attendance demonstrate the power of having a caring adult at school for these students. These students have become accustomed to an adult checking in with them each day in school. The specialists playa crucial role in assuring success in the exosystem for truant students. Real work can occur at the exosystem layer to improve conditions for habitually truant youth. The collaboration with the courts and community in the EIP program demonstrates one city, one court, and one school district's commitment to 180
some of the most at-risk students. Society has a responsibility to ensure students assist in the development of children. Communities and schools can make life better for these students by making sure the necessary interventions exist to allow the needs of the whole child to be met. As mentioned in Chapter two, the exosystem provides opportunities for conversations that ensure communities are child-centered, and recognizes the importance of experiences that positively impact child development (Bronfenbrenner, 2004). Limitations Truancy is a very complicated issue and carrying out a study that accounts for the many complexities is equally as challenging. When I set out to conduct this study, I was prepared to learn about truancy from the stakeholders: students, parents, schools, and courts. Upon completing my proposal defense, I sought approval from the Human Subjects Review Board to conduct the study. Gaining approval proved to be a lengthy process. In my initial proposal, I requested permission to interview students, the magistrate, truancy specialists, and the coordinator. I was only granted permission to interview students, the magistrate, and review the TRAIN data. This placed a limitation on my study because I was forced to exclude individuals who playa critical role in the daily implementation ofthe EIP. The truancy specialists provide intensive case management to the truant students The information I gained about their roles and responsibilities was all secondhand knowledge which was provided through the student and magistrate interviews and the document review.
The Human Subjects Review Board placed limitations on my study because the committee believed my role as Director of School Services was in conflict with the study. This program was housed under my department although none ofthe individuals were direct reports. The most significant limitation was the Conflict of Interest designation. This label made it extremely difficult to get as many student participants as I had anticipated. The study was originally designed to conduct student focus groups as one component ofthe qualitative data collection. The focus group format would have allowed truant students an opportunity to speak more freely in a natural classroom environment with their peers. Instead, I was forced to do individual interviews which relegated students to speaking with me, a virtual stranger in a school office building. was surprising to me that the student participants openly shared their experiences. Lack of access to the coordinator of the Early Intervention Program posed a limitation to this study. This individual has oversight of the EIP program. The coordinator has been instrumental in revising the policies and creating the truancy reduction protocols. He has assisted in navigating the collaboration between the school district and the Arapahoe County 18th Judicial Courts. I could have gained invaluable information had I been allowed to interview him. This created a limitation for my study because I was unable to gain insight from the perspective of the administrator responsible for daily oversight of the program. The coordinator has been with the program from its inception. The court magistrate provided her perspective regarding 182
the invaluable role ofthe coordinator in the daily operation ofthe truancy reduction program, but the coordinator could have added significantly to my understanding of the Early Intervention Program. A final limitation is the time frame in which this study occurred. Although improvement was evident in attendance, more time is needed to manifest changes in the grade point average (GPA) for these students. Students have generally spent a large portion of their schooling earning their GP becomes difficult to raise this score, particularly at the secondary level in a short time period. In order to detennine effectiveness of the interventions as it pertains to academic achievement, more time would be required. Recommendations In spite of the limitations of this study, many recommendations were made by the students and magistrate to improve truancy reduction efforts in the Early Intervention Program. The interviews provided a wealth of infonnation and insight into the life experiences of truant youth. The knowledge gained serves as a springboard of recommendations for practitioners regarding strategies which can be implemented to create positive learning opportunities in schools and encourage students to improve their attendance. Students' recommendations were particularly compelling and could be summarized as advocacy, high expectations, and encouragement. Table 5.2 represents recommendations from students. 183
Table 5.2 EIP student recommendations and suggestions Areas of Recommendation Encouragement High Expectations Support Students' Recommendations and Suggestions Teachers should not judge us kids. They should want us to do our best and help us to do our work better. I like when my teacher tells me "good job" and let me come to work on assignments after school. Sometimes the work is hard; especially math and I need a lot of help. My life is not easy. I need my teachers to understand this. I shouldn't be treated badly because I am truant from school. I still want to make something of my life. I need help from the school when I have been absent. I like when the teacher helps or let other students help me. I usually learn better from other kids anyway. When my truancy specialists talks to my teacher, it really helps. I don't always feel like I can tell my teacher when I am having a problem. I don't want to upset the teacher. Educators have the responsibility of ensuring all students receive equal access to quality education. This is not always easy to achieve with habitually truant youth. These are some of the most challenging individuals to reach academically. Truancy can be caused by or related to such factors as bullying, student drug use, and violence at home or in school, poor peer relationships, and lack of family support for regular school attendance, emotional or mental health problems, or inability to keep pace with
academic requirements. Schools should individualize by addressing the unique needs of each child. Programs can be developed in schools to address the root causes of truancy. Such initiatives might include programs such as mentoring, academic or tutoring programs, bullying prevention programs, heightened security in schools, and drug or alcohol awareness. Schools should also find new ways to engage their students in learning, including such hands-on options as career academies, school-to-work opportunities, and community service. They should enlist the support of local businesses and community leaders to detennine the best way to prevent and reduce truancy. For example, business and community leaders may lend support by volunteering space to house temporary detention centers, establishing community service projects that lead to afterschool or weekend jobs, or developing software to track truants. Making education relevant for students is an important finding of this study. Students indicated their desire to participate in activities that are real for them. Sherese said, "Show us videos of how the work is done in the real world. Rosita said, "let us create our own stories using technology." We must make education real for students and encourage active and participatory learning. This can be done through internships, career and technical education, and by listening and incorporating what kids have to say into daily instruction. One of the ways to make schooling relevant is to speak with students. Ask their opinions about what they are learning. Allow them to participate in planning lessons and encourage feedback after a lesson has been delivered. 185
These recommendations indicate the imperativeness that schools are purposeful and vigilant about involving parents from the onset in all truancy prevention activities. As a former principal, I have oftentimes observed that teachers are hesitant to involve parents in problem solving when issues occur. In many instances, assumptions are made that parents don't care. Schools should make every effort to create opportunities to build meaningful relationships between parents and schools. Parents should be empowered and encouraged to advocate for their child. Additional recommendations for educators are listed below. 1. Schools must ensure they have done everything possible to improve truant behavior. Court should only be recommended as a final option to mandate compliance with compulsory attendance laws. Prior to issuing a valid court order, every effort should have been made to involve teachers and parents in addressing truant behavior. The truancy court magistrate has made it very clear that she expects to see an exhaustive list of interventions that have been tried to correct truant behavior. 2. Schools should employ truancy reduction campaigns to include media in promoting school attendance. The efforts should begin prior to school starting to encourage students to return to school on the first day. These efforts should become a practice in the community. Everyone should be encouraged to promote school attendance. Additionally, schools should begin addressing truancy in July by reviewing the last quarter attendance records. This allows student identification to occur and schools to address truancy on the first day of school. This proactive approach encourages schools to catch truants before the behavior has gotten out of control. 3. Truancy is a gateway to crime and therefore schools should involve local law enforcement in their truancy reduction efforts. School districts that have worked collaboratively with law enforcement have seen promising results. Daytime crime and crimes against students have been greatly reduced through these collaborations. Truancy prevention 186
efforts should be a component of community policing efforts to be proactive about addressing crime. 4. The way we organize schools must be considered in addressing the needs of truant students. Personalized learning and smaller schools or learning academies could provide more opportunities for individualized attention that could lead to academic success. The students who I interviewed frequently spoke about the value of working individually with teachers or counselors or working in small groups with their peers. 5. The student participants indicated that school is not interesting. Educators should receive professional development on interventions aimed at improving educational effectiveness in the classroom. is imperative that we assure that classrooms are engaging. The EIP has been successful in remediating issues of truancy in APS. Court and school district collaboration are important in addressing attendance concerns. The court plays a major role in ensuring students face finn sanctions for truancy. However, the emphasis is not on the court in the EIP. The emphasis is on having schools and communities proactively work to eradicate truancy prior to court involvement. Court should be utilized as a last resort. Some of the most effective programs are partnerships between schools, families, community, and courts. These collaborations must ensure that processes are streamlined to minimize replication of paperwork and steps taken to address truancy. Coordinated efforts will ensure efficiency in addressing truancy both in the school and in the courtroom. 187
Parents must be viewed as important partners in the education of their children. Although parents should take ownership for their child's education, this isn't always the case. Parents come from many different backgrounds and sometimes have different opinions than the school regarding the value of education. Emilee shares her mom's perspective about education when she states, "My mom came up to the school and got them straight when they called to complain about me being at home babysitting. My mom said she has to work." Another example of differing values about education is clarified in Jesus' statement, "We have to go on trips together. My parents take us out of school so we can all go to Mexico to see the family." There is sometimes a clear disconnect between what the school values in these situations and what parents view as a priority. is up to the school to provide opportunities to connect with parents and share the attendance laws as well as the benefits of education. Additionally, parents should share their concerns with the school and seek assistance early on with habitually truant youth. If something is unclear regarding school rules or expectations, parents should seek clarification. Further Research This study presents many findings and conclusions regarding habitually truant students. Clearly this work is far from complete and as a result the following recommendations are suggested for future research: 188
1. Additional research is needed from the habitually truant student's perspective. Larger samples should be studied in order to allow the researcher to generalize to similar populations. 2. More research is needed to understand the impact of risk and protective factors on student's attendance and achievement. Understanding this impact will be beneficial in aligning specific interventions to support habitually truant youth. 3. In-depth and detailed longitudinal studies should be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of truancy reduction programs that collaborate with stakeholders. 4. Additional studies are needed to fully understand the interventions that have the greatest impact on habitually truant youth. 5. Strategies are most effective in reengaging truant students in school. 6. A students' cultural background has implications for attendance. Research is necessary to determine the extent to which culture impacts student attendance. Ogbu's work with culture should be referenced to extend the concepts and ideas presented in this paper around the Broffenbrenner's Ecological Model. Understanding the role of culture with attendance allows practitioners to utilize culturally relevant methods in addressing truancy. Summary Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery .... Education does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich; it prevents being poor (Horace Mann, speech given in 1848). These words spoken by renowned educator and founder of the State Board of Education still ring true today. The findings ofthis study are the stories ofthe students and court magistrate from the Early Intervention program at four Aurora Public 189
School sites. This study reveals work yet to be done for truant students. We have an obligation to equip these children with an education The unique perspectives learned in this study can be generalized to other students identified as habitually truant. The knowledge gained from this study is extremely beneficial for me in my work as the Director of School Services I intend to "Hear Their Voices" and use my influence to ensure others have open ears as well. These students clearly have a story to tell and if heard, educators have the power to adhere to the recommendations and begin making an immediate impact. This study added a missing component to the issue of habitual truancy and the complexities of life for impacted students. There is seemingly a gap in the literature around truant students. Other researchers failed to enlighten us about truancy from the habitually truant's perspective. Many interventions, strategies, and programs have been implemented to address this issue. No one will argue that these things are needed. However we must better understand what kids experience on a daily basis. Many of them are not just choosing to remain at home. Unfortunately the choices they must make are unthinkable to human beings. When faced with coming to school at the expense of leaving an infant at home without a responsible person, I find myself asking which you would choose. This is one example of the adult decisions habitually truant students are forced to make each day. We as a society have a responsibility to our students. We have to make the school environment a positive place where all students may thrive Work must be done 190
at every level from the microsystem, where the responsibility lies with the parent, to the macrosystem, where government entities can be put to work to make school and life better for habitually truant students. is my sincere desire that educators will read this research and student interviews and Hear Their Voices" as they ring through loudly and clearly. These are real lives and if we can make schooling better for others as a result of what has been spoken in the interviews, the outcome of this study will have been met.
Moderator introduction, thank you, and purpose (2 minutes) Consent (3 minutes) Introduction of participants (I minute) APPENDIX A STUDENTS Interview Protocol Hello. My name is Barbara Cooper. I am hear to talk about the Aurora Public Schools Truancy Reduction Program. I will be moderating our discussion today I would like to begin by thanking each of you for taking time to help me with this study. Your voice really does matter We will be here for about an hour or no longer than one hour. The reason we are here is to get your opinions about ways we can help students who are absent or truant from school. I am not here to convince you of anything or try to change your opinions. My job is to ask you questions and then encourage you to discuss the topic. Before we begin the interview, I want to go over a few things on how this session will be conducted and what we need from you First of all, we will be tape recording our discussion to make sure we document all of the valuable information you will be sharing However, no names are attached to any report. Also, if at any time you are uncomfortable to continue to participate, you may tell me and I'll let you leave. To participate in this interview process, I have received a signed consent form from you and your parent saying that it is okl!Y for you to be a part of this focus group. Before we start the discussion, I would like to meet you. Please tell me: Your name Your grade in school (Students will be given name placards)
APPENDIX B Student Interview-.!luestions -..2uestions Detail Probes or Expanders I. What do you like about school? Do your teachers help you in school? Do LOU have friends? 2 Do you get help from school? What type of help? How often 3. When you don't come to school what do At home you do? In the community 4. When you have been absent from school Are you welcomed back to school? What does the teacher say when you Is the teacher excited to see you when you return? return? 5 What kind of assistance does the school Please be specific provide for you and your family? How about your reading, math, study skills? skills assistance, tutoring 6. How do you get caught up on your work Tell me more about these services. when you return to school after being What types of help is provided? absent? 7. What service do you like best to help you On a scale 1 to 5, with I indicating low improve your attendance? satisfaction and 5 indicating the highest satisfaction -'your rating. 8. What has been the most important For example, academic, counselor, special help you have received so far in accommodations, financial assistance, the Early Intervention Program? tutoring, encouragement etc 9. Have you gone to court? Which support Describe your level of satisfaction with and/or resources have these support services/resources. been the most helpful with the Court 10. What makes it difficult for you be in Academic, social, family, etc ... school on time everyday? II. Tell me about specific experiences, How did these experiences make you feel? positive and/or negative, that you have had regarding being truant with teachers or others in school. 12. Share any information you think Anything you can tell us will help others. could be helpful in helping students who How does that affect other students? ski. school. 193
APPENDIX B, cont. Guidelines (3 minutes) Conclusions Summarize the major areas. To allow our sharing to flow more freely, I would like to go over some rules/guidelines. \. Please talk freely. 2. If you don't want to answer a question, you don't have to. 3. This will be an open discussion. Feel free to comment on something else. 4. There is no right or wrong answers and this is not a lest. 5. Say what is true for you You are free to change your viewpoint. Any questions regarding the rules/guidelines? Explain the next steps in the Truancy Reduction Program research project (data will be transcribed and analyzed for meaning to help inform other educators). Thank and dismiss participants
APPENDIX C COURT MAGISTRATE INTERVIEW INSTRUMENT PROTOCOL Interview Protocol Introduction/Thank yoU/Purpose Hello. I am Barbara Cooper and I am studying the APS Truancy Reduction Program. I will be moderating the interview today. would like to start by thanking you for taking time to help me with this study. The interview should take no longer than an hour of your time. The purpose of the interview is to learn about the APS Truancy Reduction Program and to find out what interventions help truant youth. My job is to ask you questions and listen to your answers. Consent Before we begin want to go over a few things on how this session will be conducted and what we need from you. First of all, our discussion will be tape recorded to make sure we document all of the valuable infonnation you will be sharing. However, no names are attached to any report. Finally, to participate in this interview process, we need to make sure we have a signed consent fonn from each of you Introduction of interviewee and interviewer Before beginning the interview, I am going to turn on the tape recorder and re-introduce myself; then I would like you to introduce yourself by: Your name (Name placards will be provided) Conclusions Summarize the major areas Explain the next steps in the study will be to transcribe and analyze the data. Thank participant. 195
APPENDIX D c ourt tIt aglstra e n ervlew Q ues Ions Questions Detail Probes or Expanders I. Tell me what goals do you consider to be Why? Be specific. most important in working with students identified as habitually truant students? 2. What is your involvement in the Early Intervention Why? Please give Program? examples. 3. Which interventions do you consider to be What are some of the most useful in working with habitually truant interventions your program youth? provides? 4. Which interventions have had the least impact Why? How are the on habitually truant youth? interventions less effective in helping students? 5. How do you determine the effectiveness of What tools do you have Interventions issued from the court? available 6. I understand the EIP is a collaborative approach Who are the collaborators among stakeholders. with APS on this project? 7. What are the top reasons students give for being truant? Provide examples 8. What role does the court play in the Truancy Please elaborate Reduction Program? 9. What role do parents play in truancy reduction? Expectations of parents from a court perspective. 10. What are the levels of consequences for truant behavior Site examples once a student is a truancy court. II. In a perfect world what is the best way Describe what schools, to support habitually truant students. families, courts and students would do. 12. What is the most frustrating aspect, from a truancy Why? Magistrate's persective of truancy reduction? Give examples 13. What other thoughts would you like to share about the Early Intervention Program?
APPENDIX E TRAIN
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APPENDIX F Expedited Court Process Contact Log Student Name: ________
APPENDIX F, cont. 9. a Ii s 3: 0 z 0 a z r 0 D. H 3 3 fl 217
APPENDIX F, cont. 2/131200S Please fill out the Infonnation Sheet and return oy mall or with your student within 3 days of receipt. Student Name: Parent/Guardian Name: Address: Email Address: Home Language: Home Telephone Number: Cell Phone Number: Work Telephone Number: INFORMATION SHEET ___________ Extension: __ ----Best time to call during the school day: ________ Telephone __ Other infonnation that you wish to share with me. Parent Description: HT ___ WT___ Hair ___ Eyes __ OOB, _____ Ethnicity, ____ I have read and understood the truancy "Letter ofIntroduction" included in lh's packet. Parent Signature: ________________ Date: ____ '-__ Student Signature: _______________ Date: _______ 218
Deportment CO APPENDIX F, con!. To the parent of My name is Jean-Paul Rodriguez, I am the Truancy Spe 'alist for Aurora Public Schools who has been assigned to work with your stu ent and family_ Your child's Principal, has asked me to assist Student's Name with hislher truancy issues. We know that in order for stud nts to be successful in school, it is necessary for them to attend school daily. c are concerned that your student is missing valuable instructional time and th t this loss of time may cause your child to get behind in their academic sk lis, which may cause frustration and difficulties in school. Regular school aU ndance is important to your child's future success. It is a Colorado State Law that children between the ages 7 and seventeen must attend school regularly_ State law also mandates that we monitor the attendance of all students and report those who are truant to the Dist 'ct Court. Because of Student's Name number of absences this year, helsh has been referred to District Truancy Court_ My goals are to work together with you and your stuint to help your child become more successful attending school. Togeth we will identity the challenges you and your child are facing that keep him/he from attending school regularly. We will also determine what supports are neede. I would like to meet with you and Student'S Name witht the next few days to begin talking about this. I will contact you to arrange a me that I can come to your home to talk to you. I look forward to working wi you and your family over the next few months. Sincerely yours, Jean-Paul Rodriguez APS Truancy Facilitator 219
Name of Student APPENDIXG Goal Plan Fonn ---------------------------Date ------------------------------------Name of Advocate --------------------------School ---------------------------------220
APPENDIX G, cont. Student Signature: _______________ Date _________ Parent Signature: ____________ Date ____________ Advocate Signature: ______________ Date _________
APPENDIX G, cont. EARL Y INTERVENTION PROGRAM REFERRAL 2008-09 Please send referral to EIP Facilitator. Fax to: 303-326-0000. Date: Referral by: School: Phone: Student Name: ___________________________________ 10#: Date of Birth: School: Grade: Parent(s)/Guardian Names: Translation Needed: Yes 0 No 0 Home Phone: Work Phone: Address: Check each of the following that apply for the student: Student shows a long history of truancy through attendance records and checks Student shows a recent history of truancy through attendance records and checks. Student shows academic deficiencies based on progress reports and report cards. Student has a history of disruptive behaviors as tracked through discipline referrals. Student and/or family past or current involvement with one or more community service agencies Other family members/siblings attending Aurora Public Schools: Student/Family Strengths and Resources: Ste s Prior to Referral: Dates Outcome o Student meet in Parent contacted Phone Letter 0 School Truancy Team Review 0 Other: 222
APPENDIX H IN THE DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE STATE OF COLORADO COUNTY OF ARAPAHOE Juvenile Action No. Div.307 THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, Parenti Guardian: Address: D.O.B. In the Interest A JUVENILE Age: 9 SPECIAL REPORT Date Home Phone: Gender: Female Race/ Ethnicity: Black Personal and Family History: Prior Court Involvement: HISTORY OF THIS CASE Date: Disposition: Review Date: Prior Social Services Involvement: Mental Health Services and Treatment: 223
APPENDIX H, cont. Education: School District Information: Summary: is the assessment of this writer that: The following risk and protective factors have been identified by this writer. Risk factors: Protective factors: The following are this writer's recommendation for _________ and his/her family: This report was completed and respectfully submitted by, Date Truancy Specialist Cc: 224
APPENDIX I ARAPAHOE COUNTY STUDENTS 225
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APPENDIX I, cont. COMMUNITY ATTENDANCE REVIEW BOARD MEMBERS 238
APPENDIX J AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Adopted MIlY 1981 Recoded November 1998 Revised September 2007 STUDENT ATTENDANCE Pale 1 of 2 STATEMENT OF PHILOSOPHY APS Code: JE Students and parents/guardians who desire to obtain the greatest benefit from public education must recognize that regular attendance is essential. Further, students enrolled in the Aurora Public Schools are required to attend classes, unless excused for good reason, accordance with the Colorado School Attendance Law (C.R.S. 22-33-101 and Article IX, Section 2 of the Colorado Constitution). Good attendance is of paramount importance to academic performance and overall success of students. Absences, whether excused or unexcused, arc detrimental to the learning process. Work made up outside of class is not as effective as the actual classroom experience. Class discussions, lab work, simulations, student-to-student interaction and student-teacher interaction cannot replicated outside the classroom or at a later time. Regular attendance develops habits that are essential for success in the working world. is the joint responsibility of students, parents/guardians and schools to ensure regular attendance. Excessive student absences may symptomatic of problems which necessitate joint efforts of the school, student, home and community agencies. Therefore, in cases of excessive absences, the district will utilize conununity agencies, as well as the courts, in order to enforce regular attendance when student or parentaVguardian responsibility has not been met. STUDENT A TIENDANCE The Board of Education shall authorize the Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent to designate an attendance officer for the district to develop procedures to enforce the provisions of the School Attendance Law. COMPULSORY A TIENDANCE AGES All schools shall comply with the compulsory attendance age requirements as defined in the Colorado State Attendance Law. AGE LIMITATIONS FOR STUDENTS ATTENDANCE District residents who have attained the age of six years and are under the age of 21 years are 239
APPENDIX J., cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Adopted May 1981 Recoded November 1998 Revised September STUDENT ATTENDANCE Page 20f2 APS Code: JE entitled to attend Aurora Public Schools. with the exception of students who are suspended or expelled for a given period of time. Students who reach 21 years of age will be withdrawn at the end of the semester in which their 21" birthday occurs. LEGAL REFS.: CROSS REFS.: e R.S. 22-33-103 C.R.S. 22-33-104 22-33-104.5 C.R.S. 22-33-107 C.R.S. 22-33-108 JHB. Truancy 240
APPENDIX J, cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Revised November 1986 Recoded November 1998 Revised February 2008 Page 1 of5 Attendance Expectations and Procedures APS Code: JE-R According 10 state law, it is the obligation of parents to ensure that every child under their care and supervision receives adequate education and, of compulsory attendance age, attends school. Parents/guardians shall provided written attendance expectations and procedures for district and for the building in which their child is enrolled. This information shall located in newsletters, srudent handbooks, the school Web site, or other means of written communication at the beginning of the school year or as students enroll during the school year. Notifyinl: the School Parents/guardians are to notify the school attendance office in a timely manner regarding a student's absence. After-hours school phone recorders are available to take this information. District Attendance Officer The attendance officer for Aurora Public Schools shall provide training and ongoing support for building personnel on attendance and truancy processes and issues. The attendance officer may facilitate attendance review board meetings to address attendance and truancy concerns, access community resources as appropriate, and assist the student and parent/guardian in developing strategies to improve the student's school attendance. Building Procedures All school sites are expected to follow district policy, regulations, procedures and the truancy reduction program protocols to accurately document student attendance. All teachers are expected to record accurate daily attendance for their students. Teachers shall enter unverified absences and tardies into the district student information system. The school attendance office will also utilize the student information system to indicate those absences for which parents/guardians have called to verify that the student will not be in school. When a parent/guardian has not made the required contact with the school, the school shall notify the parent/guardian by a recorded phone message or a personal phone call orthe student's absence. If the school is unable to reach the parent by phone a letter shall be sent.
APPENDIX J, cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Revised November 1986 Recoded November 1998 Revised February 1008 STUDENT ATTENDANCE Page 1 of 5 APS Code: JE-R Teachers and attendance personnel will monitor the student's excused and unexcused absences andlor tardies. When a pattern of unexcused absences andlor unexcused tardies occurs, the student will be identified as habitually truant, based on district protocol and state law. Colorado State Law 22-33-107 defines the habitual truant as a student of compulsory attendance age who has "four unexcused absences in anyone month or 10 unexcused absences during any school year." The teacher or school attendance office shall contact the parents/guardians to discuss issues related to attendance. Excessive excused absences or tardies will also result in parent/guardian contact. If the student's school attendance does not improve, school personnel will make every effort to schedule a conference with the student and the parent/guardian to develop an attendance improvement plan. An attendance improvement plan shall be developed for a student who has been declared or who is at risk of being declared habitually truant, the goal of which is to assist the student to remain in school, maintain regular attendance, and obtain a quality education. This plan will also devc:lop improvement goals, with the expectation that all parties will work together to assist the student in meeting attendance requirements. If the student's school attendance continues to be a concern, the school may refer the student to an attendance review board or file a truancy petition in court. One outcome of the attendance review board is to complete an attendance contract which defines the expectations and responsibilities for the student, parent/guardian and school. the parent/guardian andlor student fails to attend the attendance review board meeting or attendance does not improve after the meeting, proccc:dings may begin for filing the truancy case in Arapahoe or Adams County Truancy Court. Excused Absences To excuse a student, a parent shall notify the school in a timely manner via telephone, written notification or through other verifiable documentation as required by the school administration. The district may require suitable proof regarding excused absences, including written statements from medical sources. When a student has excessive excused absences due to reported illness, the building administrator may require a written medical excuse from the family physician. a family indicates they have no physician or medical source available for this purpose, the school nurse is authorized to make a determination if a student is, indeed, ill. The school nurse may also refer families to appropriate medical resources when needed to substantiate the illness. 242
APPENDIX J, cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Revised November 1986 Recoded November 1998 Revised February STUDENT ATTENDANCE Page 3 or5 The following absences shall be considered excused: A. IlInesslinj ury APS Code: JE-R Absences by a student who is temporarily ill or injured are excused if such illness/injury is documented by the student's parent/guardian. B. Appointments/serious circumstances Absences shall be excused on a case-by-case basis if a student has an appointment or a circumstance of a which cannot be resolved before or after school hours. To the ex lent possible, the parent/guardian is encouraged to notify the school in advance regarding appointments/serious circumstances. C. Extracurricular experiences which have been approved by the school A student's request to participate in extracurricular experiences outside of the school building may be approved for up to five days under certain circumstances and on a case-by case basis. Any absences beyond the five days shall be treated as unexcused. Approval shall be left 10 the discretion of the school's principal. The principal may use any of the following criteria or any combination of the following criteria in determining whether a student is permitted to engage in said extracurricular experiences. I. The student meets CHSAA general eligibility standards; 2. The student is in good academic standing (passing all classes with a grade of C); 3. The student has no unexcused absences; 4. The student has five or fewer excused absences in a semester or nine or fewer excused absences for the school year; 5. The student is attending any school-sponsored activity or activities ofan educational nature with advance approval by the administration. D. Family business/family vacation days which have been approved by the school A student's parent/guardian may request approval for an excused absence to attend to family business/family vacation (e,g. wedding, flililily trip). Approval shall be left to the discretion of the school's principal. This excused absence is not to cxceed three days per year if the following conditions arc mct: 243
APPENDIX J, cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Revised November 1986 Recoded November 1998 Revised February 2008 STUDENT ATTENDANCE Page 4 of5 APS Code: JE-R I. Student is in good academic standing (passing all classes with a grade of C); 2. Student has no unexcused absences; or 3. Student has four or fewer excused absences in a semester or seven or fewer excused absences for the school year. E. Funerals A student's parent/guardian may request approval for an absence to be excused attend a funeral. This excused absence shall not exceed three days. Additional time may be requested on a case-by-case basis. Approval shall be left to the discretion of the principal. Absences due to suspension are considered to be excused for the purposes of truancy. Unexcused absences An unexcused absence is defined as an absence that is not covered in the ellcused absence section. "Prank" days, "sneak" days and similar activities are not sanctioned, supported or sponsored by the district or individual schools and shall be considered unexcused absences. Each unexcused absence shall be entered on the student's record. The parent or guardian of the student receiving an unexcused absence shall be notified orally or in writing by the district of each unellcused absence. Minutes of unexcused tardies shall be combined with unexcused absences to determine the total amount of unexcused absences. In accordance with district policy, the administration may impose penalties which relate directly to classes missed while unexcused. The administration shall also develop appropriate intervention strategies for students who have unexcused absences. The school administration shall develop appropriate intervention strategies to assist the student in changing his/her truancy behaviors. The school shall request a sanction letter be sent the family by the truancy attorney according to district protocol when the student is at risk of becoming habitually truant or has been determined to be habitually truant. A court petition may be filed when the student has been deemed be habitually truant and when interventions have been unsuccessful at changing the student's behavior. Ajudicial officer will take action as he/she deems appropriate. All petitions shall be accompanied by a sworn affidavit by a school person knowledgeable of the child's record. This affidavit shall inform the court in separate categories of the number of unexcused absences, unexcused tardies, excused absences and excused 244
APPENDIX J, cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Revised November 1986 Recoded November 1998 Revised February STUDENT ATTENDANCE Page S of5 APS Code: JE-R tardies. All subsequent affidavits shall be broken down in the same manner. At any truancy hearing the school involved shall have a person present who is knowledgeable about the child in regard to the current unexcused/excused absences, unellcused/excused tardies, grades and bchaviors in all classes taken during the school year and a copy of the child's attcndance plan. 245
APPENDIX J, cont. AURORA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Adopted JUDe 1979 Recoded March 1999 Revised September 2007 TRUANCY TRUANCY Page I of I APS Code: JHB If an absence has not been excused by the parent/guardian and the principaUdesignee, the student shall be considered truant. According to state law, a "habitual truant" shall be defined as a student of compulsory attendance age who has four or more unexcused absences from school or class in any one month or ten or more unexcused absences during any school year. Absences due to suspension or expulsion shall not be counted in the total of unexcused absences. A student with excessive excused absences may also be considered truant if a reported illness cannot be verified or the rcasons for the absences are not approved as excused by the administrator. If a student's attcndance does not consistently improve after reasonable efforts by the school to contact and work collaboratively with parents/guardians or if a student and their parent/guardian fail to attend the scheduled Attendance Review Board meeting, proceedings shall begin for filing for truancy in Arapahoe or Adwns County Truancy Court. TRUANCY COURT Court proceedings may be initiated to compel student and parent/guardian comply with the school attendance law. Failure to comply with court orders may result in a contempt of court ruling, with appropriate sanctions designated by state law and the court. Sanctions may be as severe as a sentence for incarceration in a juvenile detention facility for the student and a fine or confinement in the county jail for the parent/guardian. LEGAL REFS: CROSS REFS.: C.R.S.22-33-103 C.R.S. 22-33-104 C.R.S. 22-33-104.5 C.R.S. 22-33-107 C.R.S. 22-33-108 JE, STUDENT ATTENDANCE 246
APPENDIX J, cont. EarlY Intervention Forms/ Reports/ Protocol Person Responsible at Site 1. 1. 2. 2. 3. 3. 4. 4. school 5. 5. _son be 6. 6. 7. 7. Parent Confanmce," 8. 8, po 3 10. 10, 11. student should rwcommended for EIP. If 10, Jefllllli 12. copy of file 12. for .1 13. U. La lI .. ignl Truanqo to caM. be tchool.) 14, Facilitator 14. flag 4-9 15. 15. Advot;atclTruanFy Specialist 16. a vioil \he the Hrvicel 16, be 17. 17. achooI 18. contact 18. Ind incentive. .tudent. 247
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