To the Editor:
With their just-announced Every Student, Every Day initiative, the U.S. departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice are making a concerted effort—led by the White House—to cut chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent a year.
Of course, the feds have talked about absenteeism before, and it’s unclear at this point if the new initiative will involve any new funding. But there was one sentence in the Education Department’s announcement of the initiative that provides special reason for hope: “We believe that when a diverse coalition of local stakeholders work together to engage and support students who are chronically absent, youth and family outcomes of entire communities can be dramatically improved.”
That is precisely the approach that Communities In Schools, the organization I lead, has been taking for nearly 40 years in working to remove the environmental barriers that prevent poor children from excelling in school. From housing to hunger to gang activity at the bus stop, we know that low-income students face obstacles that are unknown (or easily solved) in middle-class homes.
For poor kids, showing up to school isn’t just a matter of self-discipline, it’s also a matter of opportunity and ability. That’s why the Obama administration’s Every Student, Every Day initiative is such an encouraging sign to me. We know from experience that when communities come together to provide these kids with love and support, the results can be dramatic.
It’s gratifying to see a federal initiative that targets the underlying causes of chronic absenteeism among disadvantaged youths. Of course, new funding would be ideal, but a renewed focus is a step in the right direction. From police to health-care providers to faith-based organizations, the White House says it intends to rally a wide variety of stakeholders in this effort. So here’s hoping that the message goes out loud and clear.
Communities In Schools
A version of this article appeared in the November 04, 2015 edition of Education Week as Kudos to White House for Tackling Students’ Chronic Absenteeism