For the first time, three school districts in Adams County examined the issue of student absence rates together during a Truancy Reduction Planning Event June 6.
Adams 12 Five Star Schools, School District 27J and School District 14 joined forces and grant money to put on a day-long event at Adams 12 ESC Conference Center.
Dr. Laura Meyer, a clinical assistant professor in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver, facilitated the event. The three school districts hired her for the event using Expelled and At Risk Student Services grant money, according to Kevin Denke, 27J’s public information officer.
Denke said one of the goals outlined in the grant was preventing unexcused absences at lower levels and keeping them to a minimum level as students progress toward graduation. About 15,000 students are enrolled in 27J schools.
“In other words, we’re not going to have much success in changing the attendance behavior of high school students, but the hope is we can start addressing the issue of truancy at lower grade levels and, hopefully, change the pattern,” Denke said.
In the 2010-11 school year, 27J had 538 students who were considered habitually truant. Denke said habitually truant is defined as four or more unexcused absences in one month, or 10 or more days in one year.
Last year, Adams 12 Five Star Schools’ truancy rate was 1.9 percent, said Teresa Andrade, assistant director of intervention services and attendance officer at District 12.
“Truancy is the first indicator a student is having trouble in school and at-risk for dropping out of school,” she said.
Andrade said during the truancy-reduction event, students and parents were interviewed and focus groups were conducted to identify opportunities to improve attendance.
“This was the first time the truancy information was looked at across the county both quantitatively and qualitatively. This included the number of days missed and attendance rates,” she said.
Now the districts are developing an action plan based on the information gathered, and will give the plan to the Colorado Department of Education.