New York City is embracing a community schools strategy to reduce chronic absenteeism and improve student achievement. Mayor Bill de Blasio considers his initiative establishing more than 100 new community schools (read the Strategic Plan for Community Schools) as central to ensuring the nation’s largest school district provides an equitable education.
The work with chronic absence builds on an earlier initiative launched by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg providing “Success Mentors” and other programs to reduce absences. The mentoring program remains a part of the community schools initiative, which also focuses on whole school change, as well as developing community partnerships and providing increased services. Chronic absenteeism was a factor in choosing the schools involved in the community schools initiative and will be a metric of its success.
The first phase of the effort will include 45 schools known as Attendance Improvement and Dropout Intervention (AIDP) schools and will have a particular focus on improving attendance and graduation rates. That work will be funded by a $52 million grant administered by the New York City Education Department and the United Way of New York City. Other Renewal Schools will be named based on weak academic performance in prior years. Chronic absence will also be a focus in NYC Community Schools and includes support through a large scale AmeriCorps Success Mentor Program.
The initiative builds on A Better Picture of Poverty: What Chronic Absenteeism and Risk Load Reveal About NYC’s Lowest-Income Elementary Schools, an analysis by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, which concludes, among other things, that improving attendance is critical to helping struggling schools.
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