New initiative aims to combat chronic absenteeism in younger grades

Read the story in the New Haven Register here: New Haven Schools Program to Support Absentees
Read the story in the New Haven Independent: Two Schools Tackle Chronic Absenteeism
Mayor Toni N. Harp today addressed public school attendance, truancy, and high school graduation rates while helping New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Garth Harries, Judge Paul Knierim, Probate Court Administrator for Connecticut, state Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Joette Katz, members of the General Assembly, and New Haven public school administrators launch an Attendance and Engagement Clinic for two New Haven schools.
This truancy mitigation effort is a collaboration among New Haven Public Schools and the state’s Probate Court system, and more specifically the New Haven Regional Children’s Probate Court. This proactive, stay-in-school initiative uses a graduated series of family caregiver notifications, home visits, and referrals as necessary to curb chronic absenteeism and truancy. The goal of the clinic is to work with families to help them resolve problems that may be preventing their children from attending school. Preventing chronic absenteeism at an early age then makes it less likely to occur with older students, so that it is not a bar to achievement or staying in school.
The initiative will be piloted at two district schools, Strong and Quinnipiac, and will focus efforts on engaging families of children in grades K-4. The program involves working closely with parents whose children are repeatedly absent and connecting those families with information, referrals for services and other resources, including the possibility of scholarships for after-school and summer programs.
“Each day of school a child misses is a wasted opportunity for that child to learn, to grow, and to discover more about his or her talents and potential,” Mayor Harp said. “I’m very excited about this new outreach effort to engage parents and other caregivers of New Haven Public Schools students so we have ‘all hands on deck’ keeping young people enrolled, motivated, in school, and on track to graduate with the best possible chance for productive, adult lives.”
"If we want all of our kids to succeed, we need to have them in the classroom and learning every single day. Even as early as kindergarten, chronic absenteeism holds our children back from being the best they can be. This Attendance and Engagement Clinic will help us work with important state and community partners to help parents support their children in coming to school every day and working toward a bright future," said Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries.
"I am so pleased to support this innovative partnership among the Probate Court, city of New Haven and DCF. As an institution with a tradition of helping children and families in a collaborative setting, the Probate Court is perfectly suited for this role,” said Judge Paul Knierim, Probate Court Administrator. “The clinic will bring together parents, educators and service providers to solve the problems that cause children to miss school.”
Quinnipiac School Principal Grace Nathman said her staff tracks absences and analyzes data on a daily basis so they can help parents overcome barriers and make sure their kids get to school every day.
"Upon close analysis of the attendance data, we realized many of the issues could be remedied by educating parents on the importance of daily attendance, asking our teachers to reach out to parents to build strong relationships, handling transportation issues immediately and forging a relationship with community agencies. In my opinion, it is the most important message we can send to our parents and students because if they are not in school daily, they are not learning," Principal Nathman said.
The Attendance and Engagement Clinic builds upon existing district-wide efforts to engage parents of young students, including a Kindergarten Canvass the past two Augusts, and the district’s partnership with the United Way of Greater New Haven to spread the message about the ART of School Success: Attend school regularly; Read with your child daily; Talk with your child daily.