Efforts to Expand
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NEW YORK CITY â€” Kids provided with mentors missed fewer days of school last year, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials.
The mayor, along with Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, said Wednesday that chronically late students provided with mentors showed measurable improvement in attendance. They also announced the expansion of the cityâ€™s mentorship program, which last year targeted 25 schools with high rates of absenteeism. This year more than 300 mentors have been trained.
The program is part of the â€śEvery Student, Every Dayâ€ť anti-truancy campaign, which includes the Wake Up! NYC campaign of wake up calls to students from celebrities.
The first year of the mentorship program â€” Success Mentors â€” saw chronically absent students get to school more often than other chronically absent students who did not get mentors. The roughly 2,000-plus mentored students participating in the program attended 7,000 additional days of school, or more than three additional days per student, on average.
The program approved attendance among children of all ages who were chronically absent, but was especially effective in high school. Among children who were described as â€śseverely chronically absent,â€ť the program was highly effective among high schoolers, but oddly ineffective among middle schoolers. â€śSeverely chronically absentâ€ť middle school students with mentors actually missed more school than the same category of students without mentors.
Program to Expand
This school year, the program will double the number of chronically absent students receiving in-school Success Mentors to more than 4,000 and double the number participating schools. In addition, the cityâ€™s program will add new specialized mentors to work with students returning from suspensions, placements at juvenile facilities, foster care, or temporary housing, who are especially vulnerable to chronic absenteeism.
The â€śEvery Student. Every Dayâ€ť campaign was developed by the Mayorâ€™s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement, which is overseen by John Feinblatt and chaired by Leslie Cornfeld. The mayor made the announcement at the High School for Teaching and the Professions in the Bronx, where he was joined by Principal Gary Prince, Success Mentor Derrick Williams and other success mentors and students who benefited from the program.
Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement that that nearly 80 percent of children in the juvenile justice system were chronically absent the year before their arrest, and chronically absent students are more likely to experience substance problems or teen pregnancy.
Feinblatt said that student tracking showed that it didnâ€™t matter who the mentor was â€” what was important was â€śproviding consistent, year-long relationships with the students, face-to-face interaction meetings between principals and mentors, and celebrating the studentsâ€™ achievements.â€ť Providing a mentor access to the studentâ€™s data also helped. Each mentor oversees a group of 15-20 chronically absent students.
â€śBeing a part of this program gave me a sense of stability and I feel like I am part of a family here at the High School for Teaching and the Professions,â€ť said high school senior Jean Robinson.
â€śThis is the boldest, most comprehensive in-school mentoring model in the nation,â€ť said Dr. Robert Balfanz, research scientist at Johns Hopkins and the task force advisor.
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