Over the summer, the city school system closed the Baltimore Truancy Assessment Center. Last week, it removed the director of its attendance and truancy office from her job. (She, along with the director of science and health and the director of safe and supportive schools, were demoted back to the classroom.)
So what is the system doing about truancy? I posed the question yesterday to Jonathan Brice, the executive director of student support. And his answer sounded a lot like the answer to what the system is doing about dropouts.
Brice doesn't like truancy centers such as BTAC (co-founded by the late Ken Harris) because it's left up to luck whether a kid happens to run into a police officer while wandering the street during a school day and gets picked up. "Making it to a truancy center is akin to winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning," he said.
Now, according to Brice, there are meetings every two weeks where administrators review attendance data. And the direction given to schools is to call, pay a home visit, intervene in any means necessary, when a child begins to miss school to figure out the source of the problem. Don't wait until the child is a chronic truant, defined as having 20 or more absences. More than 7,000 students met that criteria last school year. Brice doesn't like distinguishing between excused and unexcused absences, either. Even kids who are out of school for legitimate reasons are going to need extra help, he said. Now it's up to the schools to provide it.