Bronx Stakeholders Come Together to Tackle Chronic Absenteeism

Email Twitter Facebook Stumble Upon Digg | More |

Elected Officials, Educators, Parents, and Community-Based Organizations Make Everyday School Attendance a Top Priority

Dozens of stakeholders in the South Bronx community gathered at East Bronx Academy for the Future to raise awareness of the critical role that strong attendance plays in academic success and to kick-off an allied effort among 61 schools, as part of the South Bronx Rising Together collective impact initiative, to dramatically reduce chronic absenteeism in the area.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as when a child misses 10 percent or more of school—about a month—over the course of an academic year, whether excused or unexcused. For the school year ended in June 2013, more than 35 percent of the students in Community District 3 were chronically absent. Nationally, only one out of 10 students is chronically absent. 

Chronic absenteeism is associated with negative school and life outcomes – including low academic achievement, dropping out, delinquency and substance abuse – and is an important leading indicator of children and families who may need help.

“The Bronx is in the early stages of what I know will be a historic revival,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “Our ability to sustain this revival lies squarely with what we do for the children of the Bronx. We have to keep them safe and healthy, and we must make sure they are in the classroom every day. I'm thrilled that South Bronx Rising Together has made attendance a major priority.”

Poor attendance in early grades has a negative impact on third-grade reading proficiency—especially for low-income students.  Ninth-grade attendance is a better high school graduation predictor than eigth-grade test scores.

“Last year, we started working on attendance improvement independently and saw some progress,” said Principal Lucia Orduz-Castillo of P.S. 42 in the Bronx. “But South Bronx Rising Together is going to be a vital source of support and tools in this effort—along with its network of other educators equally determined to succeed—to make sure children reach their potential. We're incredibly excited to be part of it.”

“South Bronx Rising Together has built a new approach to the age old problem of getting kids to school every day,” said New York Assembly Member Marcos Crespo. “As parents and as leaders, we have to point kids to the ladder of success and support it for them as they begin the climb. And this initiative is a big step in that effort.”

“As a lifelong resident of the Bronx, I know that our best days are not too far ahead of us,” said New York Assembly Member Michael Blake. “The same can be said for the academic achievement of our kids. Seeing all these people invested in the future and in better outcomes for kids makes me confident that we can slash the rates of chronic absenteeism and reach new heights of academic success. The vision of South Bronx Rising Together is ensuring economic development, education, and equality for all Bronxites to make the South Bronx the urban metropolis of the world.”

“We were inspired by the energy in the room and the participation of a broad group of stakeholders—parents, young people, educators, community partners, health providers, and others,” said Abe Fernández, the director of collective impact at The Children’s Aid Society and co-director of South Bronx Rising Together.  “When one considers the myriad factors that lead to high rates of absence, it is clear we need all of these folks and many more to work together on understanding the issues and crafting solutions. This is a problem we can do something about, and I am confident we will get results this year.”

“Reducing chronic absenteeism in our schools is imperative to ensuring that every young person in our community reaches his or her potential,” said Elizabeth Clay Roy, chief strategy officer at Phipps Neighborhoods and co-director of South Bronx Rising Together. “It is clear to me from today’s meeting that we are ready to work together as a community to make chronic absence a priority starting now.”

The South Bronx was once a thriving community where families prospered and the future offered promise. Today, in the heart of this neighborhood, 83 percent of children are born into poverty. But families never stop wanting something better.

South Bronx Rising Together is a growing network of program providers and community members has joined forces to foster new opportunities for all the young people in the heart of the South Bronx. With generous support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation and coordination from The Children’s Aid Society and Phipps Neighborhoods, the coalition aims to knock down the barriers to educational and economic success through a series of programs beginning at birth and carrying through early adulthood. The South Bronx is joining a growing number of communities across the country working to achieve collective impact—bringing together various stakeholders to get results on important outcomes. For additional information, please call Anthony Ramos at (212) 949-4938/ (917) 204-8214 or email anthonyr@childrensaidsociety.org.